Paul Baccus has always wanted to help people. Growing up, he thought that meant becoming a doctor, a dentist, or a lawyer. Now, 14 years into a banking career, he’s discovered that anyone can help people. In fact, it’s part of his job to make sure they get the chance.
As a Tarrant County Co-Chair for Bank of America, Paul works to find volunteer opportunities for bank employees here in North Texas. In recent years, he’s become an outspoken fan of 6 Stones. In his mind — and according to the localized strategy his company executes — grassroots service projects are essential to the health of a community. They’re hoping to create a stable, reliable environment for their patrons by tackling big problems together.
It’s a strategy that makes sense. Families can’t prosper if they spend their time worrying about unplanned expenses. Something that, as of last year, most Americans do.
Too Stressed to Save
In addition to his duties as a volunteer coordinator, Paul runs financial education programs for the bank. Their signature program, Better Money Habits, allows participants to customize a curriculum that fits their current financial situation. But the most memorable program Paul ran recently was an independent one.
“I did America Saves last year, and 62% of Americans did not have $1,000 in savings. That’s the majority. That’s the vast majority,” Paul said. “There’s always a challenge for money.”
The prevailing theory for financial stability is simple: spend less than you take in, save as much as you can. But most American families struggle to follow even that simple rule. The root cause of that problem might vary from household to household, but the effect is consistent. Money dominates the American psyche.
“We at the bank look to make financial lives better,” Paul said. “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but if you can remove some of the strife, people can grow because they’re not worried about all of these other things… They can focus on their own personal growth rather than focusing on their own immediate needs.”
What They Need is An Anchor
Removing the strife is a complicated process. Without savings to fall back on in emergencies, most families are closer to falling into debt than they are to stabilizing or thriving. Even a small unplanned expense can destabilize a household, and the solutions available at that point are far from ideal.
“If you look around, everywhere you turn you’ll see a title lending store. A payday lender. You see all these places that have these big, fancy buildings or whatever they have, and they’re in business for a reason. They are charging an exorbitant amount of fees,” Paul said. “It is a constant need. You know, no offense against these payday lenders that are charging 800%, but you are an anchor in their storm. 6 Stones provides a way for [families] to stop the swirl and move forward instead of moving backward.”
Paul believes in 6 Stones as a solution to the cash flow problem because he sees the programs here as a stopgap that prevents families from taking more drastic (and damaging) steps to handle short-term needs. At the very least, no family in this area should need to take out loans to offset the cost of food, clothing, or school supplies. That removes some of the stress of a tight budget and, ideally, frees families to focus on what matters.
“Worry is a thief and it will drown people,” Paul said. “So when you remove those things, people can just flourish and grow.”
From Short-Term to Life Change
Paul believes that we can set men and women up for success by limiting financial strain for families who live paycheck-to-paycheck. That the snowball effect that leads Americans into debt can also work in reverse; freeing people to make better long-term decisions by solving their short-term problems.
“When you take hunger away, kids can focus. Kids can learn. When kids are equipped to go to school and they have a backpack [and] supplies, they’re excited!” Paul said.
“So you take away stresses from the kids — that the kids might not even know are stresses — and you prepare them to learn and to do what they need to do. But then, you also take away the stress from the parents… they know that ‘ok, I don’t have to focus on this. I can focus on that. I can focus on being a better parent, I can focus on being a better employee for the company I work for, and ultimately provide a better future for my kids because I’m not so worry-ridden with all these things.’ So that one-time thing, that one-time fix, transforms into a life-changing event.”
But the positive effect of nonprofit partnership doesn’t end there.
Inspiring the Whole Community
At this point, a skeptic might argue that an issue as complex as financial instability requires a broader, more sustainable solution than the interconnected resources presented by 6 Stones. Make no mistake; this organization is not the End-All-Be-All difference maker for every problem in this community. No single entity could tackle those issues alone. But, as Paul points out, there is value in having a safety net for families that struggle. And even greater value in giving everyone in the community a means of giving back.
“What I tend to see, and what I have seen in many cases in volunteering, is that people that were helped will then go and help someone else. So you then become a Catalyst to drive change forward,” Paul said. “Before you know it, you have a snowball effect and it’s moving people. And people are moving in the right direction rather than the wrong direction.
“All it takes is exposing somebody to that experience one time, where they see that they have the ability to make a difference. And they do make a difference. They walk away saying ‘You know what? I have to do this more.’”
Ultimately, a problem as big as poverty can’t be solved with the simple application of resources. It’s a cultural issue that requires a cultural shift. The only way to really move the needle is to change the way people interact with it. That means providing help that prevents the problem from getting worse. But it also means giving everyone a place in the solution.
That way, you aren’t just rescuing budgets. You’re transforming lives.
You can be part of that transformation, just like Paul! Visit the “Get Involved” page to see a calendar of volunteer opportunities and explore the ways you can partner with 6 Stones to help local families stabilize and thrive.