Start small and set a deadline: those are the keys to savings success. That’s the basis behind the Tax Time Savings Program, a collaboration between ATB Financial and Momentum in Calgary.
The program started in 2018 by connecting with low-income individuals in Calgary who were using a free tax clinic to file their taxes. If the participant pledged to save a portion of their tax refund (a minimum of $200) into a savings account for an entire calendar year, ATB would then match their savings by 50 per cent (up to a maximum of $500).
Throughout the year, program participants had the option to attend financial literacy learning sessions for a bonus $200. Also, to make saving just a little easier, the accounts were set up as deposit-only.
Rebecca Kimber, a program participant, was able to save $1,000 with ATB’s matching help.
“I thought maybe I was going to have to ask for help throughout the year but I didn’t to my surprise and delight," she said.
"Putting timelines in place around my savings really helped. I’ve also been trying to watch how much I spend on things since then. I’ve been trying to make more budgets and decide with each pay cheque where it’s going. That’s been really helpful."
John Michael Maloles is another program participant that succeeded in his savings goal, although there were a few temptations he had to overcome.
“There were several moments I thought about taking the money out but since the account was only for deposit that made it easier to control my finances. That really made me think that I know my money is there but I shouldn’t touch it,” said Maloles.
“It makes you feel better when you reach a goal. Like, really emphasizing that it’s a small thing but doing small things are what really make big dreams happen,” he added.
There were 130 successful program participants last year, giving the program an outstanding 96 per cent success rate. ATB and Momentum have already begun another year of the program. New participants have until the end of June 2019 to get enrolled and pledge to save.
“We hope program participants will take the skills they have learned around money management, saving, and working with a financial institution, and apply them throughout the rest of their lives,” said Amanda Bueley, Senior Manager of Social Impact at ATB Financial. “We also hope they have gained some confidence in their ability to make sound financial decisions and in knowing that they have the discipline and means to save.”