Getting a handle on your finances


France Michaud | Desjardins Group

“Life is a lot like a game of chance. It often comes down to a roll of the dice, and sometimes you end up right back at the beginning with nothing to show for all your trouble. When we meet with people seeking assistance, we’re well aware that it could be us on the other side of that table, ” says Isabelle Thibeault, budget advisor at ACEF du Sud-Ouest de Montréal. Anyone can run into financial troubles.”

This statement demonstrates the important role that ACEFs (a cooperative association for family finances) has played in our communities for the past 50 years. Every year, ACEFs meet thousands of people and help them take control of their financial situation by offering free and confidential budget counselling for both individuals and groups.

“This idea of ‘family finances’ may sound outdated. Today, we talk more about financial education,” explains Micheline Côté, General Manager of ACEF de l’Île-Jésus.

ACEFs and Desjardins working together

“When we meet with people in financial difficulty who don’t meet the requirements for traditional financing, we refer them to ACEF. They can give them the budget counselling they need to get back on their feet,” says Julie Marois, Member Services Advisor at Caisse Desjardins de la Région de Thetford.

Thanks to the partnership between Desjardins and ACEFs, the caisses contribute to funding the financial education and budget counselling services that these organizations provide to their communities. Desjardins also helps finance mutual assistance loans for the families who look to ACEF for support.

Since 2002, more than 36,000 people have met with nearly 33 ACEFs for individual budget counselling with the cooperative association and other budget counselling organizations partnered with Desjardins for the Mutual Assistance Funds program available in Quebec and Ontario. If we also include the financial education workshops offered by these organizations, we have helped 123,000 people. All told, Desjardins invested $10 million in these partnerships.

A helping hand

“ACEF sheds light on those financial myths that stand between people and their objectives. We treat these people with respect and help them better understand their finances so they can choose the right budgeting tools and get a handle on their finances,” says Isabelle Thibeault.

According to Isabelle, the people she meets with are ashamed and blame themselves for their situation. When they find the courage to ask for help, ACEF’s job is to show them that it isn’t always their fault and that they can get through these difficult times.

ACEFs are successful because the people who go there don’t feel judged. “Just because someone can’t pay off their debts doesn’t mean that they’re incompetent,” concludes Isabelle.

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