“The IDA was the first time I really took a close look at where my money was going and how I was spending it,” says Emilio Molina of Boring, Oregon. “I was really broke when I was in college. The requirement to have an amount deposited each month, to set that amount aside from whatever I was going to do with the rest of the money, took a lot of discipline. It was a really valuable lesson. Even though it was not a lot of money, it took way more discipline than I had.”

“If I had not participated in the IDA program, by the end of the month I would have nothing, even with my healthy income now,” he continues. Instead, with the support of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Oregon and Southwest Washington, an IDA partner of CASA of Oregon, Emilio has become more disciplined in his spending and now contributes to his employer-provided retirement plan.

Emilio’s observation that income alone does not lead to financial health is supported by research: The Center for Financial Services Innovation suggests that adopting beneficial financial habits related to saving and planning can improve a household’s financial health, even if income stays the same. Specifically, holding income constant, individuals who save money for purposes five years or more into the future (such as retirement) are eight times more likely to be financially healthy than those who do not.

Nevertheless, the increased income potential that comes with being able to complete his mechanical engineering degree from Portland State University helps. “If I had not participated in the IDA program, it would have been more challenging to graduate from college,” he notes. Emilio was born “in a tiny, tiny village house” in rural Mexico. He moved to Portland at age fifteen and went on to graduate from Reynolds High School. He is the only one in his large extended family to have earned a college degree, and is proud to now mentor his younger sister as she prepares for college.

Employed with technology firm HP Inc. for more than two years, Emilio notes that it has been a dream come true to work in a profession where he can be creative and analytical. He remarks, “I really enjoy what I do.”

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