Mother Struck by Meningitis and Used IDA to Bounce Back

For 20 years, training and racing horses is how Pat Smith supported her family; but when she was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, that was no longer possible.

To try and cope with her health and financial situation, Pat took on several jobs, settling down as a bus driver in Eaton County, Michigan. While on the job, she learned about Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) - matched savings accounts for low-income people - and went to one of the program's financial management classes. Although she already had good savings habits, she still learned a lot.

She quickly enrolled in an IDA program and began to save for a farm where children with disabilities could learn about and interact with animals. After only a year, she saved enough to buy 10 acres of land outside of Charlotte, Michigan. She wasn't the highest bidder for the property, but she wrote a letter to its seller explaining her IDA saving method and detailing what she intended to use the property for.

"One of the most valuable parts of the IDA program was that I was able to increase my ability to save and to start building assets for myself and my family," Pat said. "The IDA program made a big, big difference to us."

The Corporation for Enterprise Development pioneered the practice and policy implementation of IDAs in the 1990s and has since been one of the field's leading advocates.

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