Love & Money with Clarifi

By Lou Balikos

In Philadelphia, where systemic barriers have long hindered financial stability for many, one organization is leading the charge to transform our narratives about wealth and empowerment. Clarifi, a financial services nonprofit, has matured from its beginnings as a traditional credit counseling agency to become what it is today: a free counseling service that empowers individuals to become financially resilient.

I sat down with Jill Roberts, the Director of Advocacy, and Taylor Goebel, the Marketing Communication Manager, to understand the heart behind the direction of this movement and its mission

“It’s a 50/50 partnership,” Roberts explained. “We’re meeting you halfway, and then we’re going to lift you up so you can go on this journey on your own.” Clarifi’s philosophy of empowerment is woven throughout its work, as it strives to equip clients with the knowledge and confidence needed to navigate an often complex financial landscape.

Everyone deserves access to the tools and knowledge needed to thrive financially. One-on-one counseling is the core of their programming, providing clients personalized guidance and support as they work towards their self-determined goals. 

“We became, if you will, a financial social services organization. And our special sauce, as we like to call it, was our one-to-one counseling with folks and their self-set goals—helping them, moving along with them, and empowering them to set those goals, as well as determining what those goals were,” said Roberts.

Financial challenges aren’t just about individual choices. These struggles are historically the result of structurally constrained decisions shaped by a legacy of racism, redlining, and discriminatory policies that have disproportionately impacted communities of color.

Goebel elaborated more on this shift in their understanding: “What we’ve been doing is peeling back the layers, not just the surface level [credit or debt management]. But we’re really trying to understand the root causes of why our clients are in the positions they’re in, what they’re struggling with, and what we can do to serve them and uplift them so they can start taking control of their finances.”

Clarifi offers a range of programs designed to address the diverse needs of its clients. By taking a holistic approach, they acknowledge that financial stability is not just about numbers on a page but about the overall quality of life that individuals and families are able to achieve.

At its core, Clarifi’s work is about more than just financial education and counseling. It’s about restoring hope, dignity, and agency to those who have been systematically denied access to the tools and opportunities needed to thrive. By meeting people where they are, providing trauma-informed support, and advocating for systemic change, Clarifi is helping to build a more just and equitable future for all Philadelphians.

Financial instability can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. Clarifi stands as a testament to the power of empathy, resilience, and collective action. Through their unwavering commitment to empowering individuals and communities, they are not only changing lives but also redefining what it means to build wealth and achieve financial freedom.

Here are five ways Clarifi models love within their mission:

  1. Valuing clients time and meeting people where they’re at by offering one-on-one counseling and personalized support, Clarifi creates a safe, non-judgmental space for clients to share their stories and challenges. 

  2. Providing trauma-informed care by acknowledging the impact of financial trauma. Staff are trained to understand and recognize the signs of trauma and respond with compassion and sensitivity. By recognizing financial stress’s emotional and psychological dimensions, Clarifi helps clients heal from past experiences and build resilience for the future.

  3. Advocating and demanding for systemic change. By speaking out against discriminatory lending practices, fighting for fair housing, and pushing for reforms in the criminal justice system, Clarifi demonstrates its love and commitment to creating a more just and equitable society for all.

  4. Empowering clients to take control. Through education, skill-building, and ongoing support, Clarifi helps clients develop a sense of agency and self-efficacy so they can navigate challenges and make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

  5. Celebrating successes and fostering community. Finally, Clarifi celebrates its clients’ successes and fosters a sense of community by recognizing that financial progress is not just about reaching milestones but about the joy, pride, and sense of accomplishment that comes with each step forward. 

Love Now Magazine

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Summer issue of Love Now Magazine with the theme of Family Love. You can read more stories like this one here.