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In August 2012, Jose wanted to build a brighter future for his family. He and wife Crystal worked hard to provide a safe and stable home for their nephew, Jairo, whom they were raising as their own. Although Jose worked full time, like many families, he struggled at the end of every month to pay the mortgage and stretch the family budget.

Jose is not alone. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child born in 2013 is approximately $245,000. Even scarier, almost half of U.S. households don’t have enough money saved to weather a significant emergency. A piece of bad luck, a layoff, or medical emergency and many families are facing financial disaster. “I want to be a good role model for my nephew Jairo, and make sure; he too, can stay on the right path, and have the opportunity to go to school and get a higher education,” said Jose

Jose decided to enroll in United Way’s Financial Stability Initiative for help. He met with Gina, a Financial Stability Initiative Coach at La Casa De Esperanza. Gina worked with Jose to develop a step-by-step plan to decrease his debt, repair his credit and lower his mortgage payment.   

“Just look at the growing number of foreclosures, bankruptcies, and  quick check-cashing store fronts in Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County,” said Shannon Reed, United Way Financial Stability Portfolio Manager “By helping people with personalized financial education, we can prevent people from slipping into poverty when they hit a rough patch. United Way invests in programs and initiatives that strengthen the financial stability of individuals and families in our community. When one segment of our population is struggling, we all feel the effect.”  

Over the next year, Jose and Crystal successfully completed a 12-hour, intensive financial literacy course called Make Your Money Talk which aligned them with a foundation of financial knowledge in a group settingIn 2013, Jose applied for the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) to decrease his monthly mortgage payments.

After working at the same Tool and Dye Company for 19 years, Jose wanted an opportunity to earn more income and realized that without a degree it would be challenging. He enrolled in Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC) to work towards earning his Associates Degree. 

“I always wanted to learn more about computers, but I was a bit nervous about going back to school and especially having to pay for it on my own or take out another student loan,” said Jose.

By enrolling in the Individual Development Account (IDA) Savings Program; Jose was able to pay for his courses, because every dollar Jose saved was matched two-to-one by Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.  Jose made a commitment to save part of his earnings every month for 12 months. Through his participation in the IDA program Jose saved $1,000 towards his tuition. 

In early 2014, Jose was approved for a home loan modification, which saved his family close to $300 a month in mortgage payments. With improved credit and more money in the bank, Jose was able to purchase a reliable vehicle.

At the end of 2014, Jose graduated with honors from Waukesha County Technical College and earned an associate’s degree in Applied Science – Network Support Specialist.  

“When they called my name, walking across the stage, I was like ‘Wow I did it!’ it was such a great feeling,” Jose said.

Last year, the Financial Stability Initiative (FSI) reported 99% of its participants improved their ability to increase income and gain assets by maximizing their existing income and applying budgeting skills learned through the Initiative's financial literacy education and one-on-one coaching.

Today, Jose continues to work full time and is now enrolled in WCTC’s CISCO Certification course. Once the course is complete he plans to go back to school and earn his bachelor’s degree in Information Technology.

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