Posted on Jan 21, 2014
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  Simple exercise yields a powerful lesson
We learned a powerful lesson in budgeting during our meeting on Jan. 22. Rebecca Schimke, from United Way in Waukesha County, illustrated the difficulties the working poor have in making ends meet.
Using pieces of candy representing money, Rebecca walked us through various scenarios. In each case, we had to allocate our 15 pieces of candy between rent, healthcare, meals, technology (computer, cell phone, TV), laundry facilities, shopping (convenience of store), and spare cash.
Let's say a family member loses a job and gets no severance pay. The "cost" is four pieces of candy. What do you now have to give up?
People in Waukesha County make these tough choices all the time, Rebecca said. Approximately 16% of the households in the county earn incomes that are below the federal poverty level.
United Way's Financial Stability Program works with the disadvantaged to help them become more financially literate and gain control of their finances. Working one-on-one with a  case manager, Rebecca said, clients learn budgeting and negotiating skills; the latter is helpful in obtaining higher pay and lower credit card bills. Those in need aren't always visible. "They are your friends, coworkers, neighbors," she said. "You just may not know [it]."
Rebecca said her chapter's goal is that by 2023 they will reduce by 85%--a total of 610--the number of targeted working poor families. She noted that one successful family has purchased a home in the area.
The United Way also offers programs for children who struggle in a traditional school setting. Students are offered a school/work program with local industries, she said. The students learn valuable skills while receiving classroom instruction. This allows them to graduate on time with their classmates.