Asset Building Choices

We all believe in the American Dream.  It is instilled in every one of us.  The American dream is the deeply held belief that all people, no matter their background, can achieve their goals through hard work and dedication.  Community Action Agencies across the nation embody that spirit and national pride.


In September 2009, the Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska created Asset Building Choices (ABC) to help open the doors to economic independence for working families with low or modest incomes.  More than 500 people have been involved with ABC in its first three years.  ABC provides a range of programs, which work together to:


  • Increase economic literacy of families
  • Instill positive attitudes about money
  • Change financial behaviors of families
  • Increase asset ownership among low and modest income working families


Designing Services to Fit Individual Family Needs and Circumstances

ABC’s programs provide both the tools and resources for families to achieve their American Dream.  Broad-based community support is received from individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations.


  • Money Matters:  This short four-week workshop series provides information and tools that help you keep track of your money, learn how to recognize money traps and develop a spending plan and budget.  In addition, you will learn how your credit history will affect your credit future.


  • Financial Peace University:  FPU is a 13-week life-changing program that empowers and teaches you how to make the right money decisions to achieve your financial goals.  Each class participant receives a kit that includes an FPU workbook and related materials.  There is a small fee to participate and scholarships are available – see Financial Peace University.


  • Financial Fitness:  One-on-one coaching provides personalized budget building.


  • Homebuyer Education:  Through a joint partnership with the CAPWN Housing Services Program ABC provides a REACH certified class for first-time homebuyers.


  • RentWise:  Participants learn how to search for rentals and complete the rental process.  In addition they will learn how to take care of a home, manage money and communicate with landlords and neighbors – see


  • Career Empowerment:  Classes and one-on-one coaching for individuals to create and update their resume, effectively search and obtain employment, and eventually move up in their chosen career.


  • Computer Lab: A computer lab is available for use in the job search process, resume creations, business plan development, and to complete homework and lessons taught in ABC classes.


  • Individual Development Accounts (IDA):  This is a part of a national initiative to build assets.  Individuals and families open a specially matched savings account.  ABC matches two dollars for every earned and deposited, thanks to match funds provided through the Assets for Independence grant, three local financial institutions (First State Bank, Platte Valley National Bank, and Valley Bank and Trust), and a private donor.  That money can then be used to buy their first home, go to college/technical school, or start/expand their small business.


  • Employment Boot Camp:  This comprehensive workshop series utilizes a strength-based approach to help participants to find an area of interest for their career.  The camp also teaches workplace skills, such as stress management and conflict resolution.  The final part of the program teams up each participant with a local volunteer mentor in their chosen field of interest, and helps participants secure employment in the community.  Three boot camps have been held thus far.  These camps were targeted to help 16- to 22- year olds.  Several new boot camps will be created for other groups as well.


  • Youth Financial Literacy Program:    This program provides financial and RentWise education to local area high school youth. 


  • Youth IDA Program:  This is the first Nebraska Youth IDA program.  Youth open an individual development account, or matched savings account, to purchase an asset in three main areas; arts, academics or athletics.  Funding for the program is provided by the United Way of Western Nebraska and Western Heritage Credit Union.


Getting Ahead Thanks to ABC!


Here are just a few ABC highlights:


  • Four households have completed the entire IDA program and made their asset purchase:


    • One family used money from their IDA to purchase their first home.
    • One individual used money from her IDA to expand her small business.
    • One student used money from her IDA to pay for tuition and fees towards a degree in criminal justice with Chadron State College.
    • One student used money from his IDA to pay for tuition and fees towards a degree in elementary education with West Nebraska Community College.


  • Current IDAs in process include:


    • Two individuals plan to use their savings towards a bed & breakfast expansion.
    • Two individuals plan to use their savings towards equipment for their salon. One is a current business owner and the other person is just starting out.
    • One individual plans to use his savings towards the purchase of an additional limousine for his current limousine service.
    • Three individuals plan to use their savings towards furthering their education.  One person is majoring in criminal justice.  One person is majoring in phlebotomy.  And the third person is majoring in health administration with a specialization as a tumor registrar.


  • Financial Education Classes
    • Over 150 individuals have participated in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  As a result, these individuals and families have saved $42,058.76 and reduced their debt by $52,626.99.
    • Over 65 people have participated in Money Matters.
    • Over 95 people successfully completed RentWise.



  • Career Empowerment
    • 75 individuals have obtained employment over a 3-year period, which reflects approximately 75-80% placement rate.
    • Three employment boot camps have assisted over 25 youth ages 16 to 22 to take positive steps and obtain employment.


Success Stories


IDA Program – I’m a 22 year old elementary education major at WNCC, and I was a participant in the IDA program.  I was introduced to the program while attending the Financial Peace University course with my parents.  At the time I was taking a semester off of college due to financial aid problems and decided to start the IDA program to get back into school.  My $1500, combined with the 2 to 1 match, gave me $4,500 and paid for two and a half semesters of tuition, books, and fees.  The opportunity center gave me the financial means to continue on with my degree.  In May 2013, I will be receiving my associates of arts degree and begin working on my bachelor degree thanks to the opportunity center.  I am really thankful for everything the opportunity center has done for me and I credit my future to the opportunity center’s IDA program and staff.



Employment Boot Camp – Employment Boot Camp was extremely beneficial to me. I loved it.  It was nice to learn the things that I could do to better myself as an employee. The things I learned in class not only helped me professionally, but personally as well.  I learned about hygiene, managing stress, interviewing information, making eye contact, and using just simple tips. Everything you do at work and in your personal public life represents the company that you are working for.  If I am volunteering at a local soup kitchen, I am positively representing the agency that I work for.  These are absolutely valuable life lessons that I learned in the class, and I can now focus my professional goals on being the best employee that I possibly can be. 


Information Sources:

CAPWN Asset Building Choices Brochure

CAPWN IDA Brochure

CAPWN Website

2011 Annual Report - Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska

KNEB Kevin Mooney Morning Show

Financial Peace University offered - Star-Herald (news article, October 2011)

Opportunity Center Helping Panhandle Residents' Build Assets, Skills to End Poverty - Star-Herald (news article, October 2010)


This website is maintained by the National Association of Community Action Agencies – Community Action Partnership, in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Grant Number, 90ET0469 and 90ET0481. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.