Katie Suvanto is proof that it is never too late to examine your relationship with money and take control of your finances. Growing up in a family with eight children, the only relationship she remembers about money is that of anger, and it being in the negative as they were always trying to catch up.
“Having three children, and raising them primarily on my own, with friends and family, I didn’t really have a strong hold on my finances so in the later part of my 40s it’s probably time to figure it out,” said Katie. While she hadn’t heard of Esquao beforehand, she became aware of the Empower U Financial Independence Training (FIT) course on social media and wanted to participate.
When asked how going through the program helped her, Katie replied, “There are two ways that this program has helped me. It helped me get back into my community because I felt very isolated and it has allowed me for the first time in my life to look at my finances.”
While her mother is Gitxsan First Nation and her stepfather is Treaty 8 from Driftpile First Nation, living in Edmonton had separated her from her culture. She credits the course for providing the connection she lacked, “It created a community for me being an urban member, someone who doesn’t live with their band or on their reserve or in their territory. You’re somewhat detached from all cultural aspects. There’s nobody that you know of that are from your area, and you kind of were able to connect on culture and connect with other people that, regardless of where you’re coming from, you’re coming for the same reason.”
As part of the 10 two-hour sessions that make up the FIT course, participants explore their relationship to money through group sessions on budgeting, credit, financial priorities, and confronting personal barriers to saving. There is regular one-on-one coaching to address individual financial challenges and knowledge-sharing on how money management is linked to trauma and addiction. The program also offers a matched savings component where dollars saved towards a participant’s financial goal are matched on a 1:1 ratio. This means that every dollar they save is matched towards the purchase of an asset.
Being a First Nations person with Suvanto as a last name, and with blue eyes and fair skin, has made connecting with community a journey. “So when you get a whole bunch of women that you can identify with, and who are ‘all my relations’ you literally feel that connection as you go through the modules,” said Katie. “I would definitely recommend this to anybody who identifies with the same life situation I have identified with growing up. I think it’s important, as it’s not a conversation that we have.”
With two children in university, and her youngest having autism, Katie said, “I don’t want to be in survival mode anymore, this last half of my life is going to be one that I get to control and I think that’s what this course does, it helps you find control. I want to have something in place for my child.”