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Financial Fitness: A Gift that Keeps On Giving – to Oregonians

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December 13, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - In this season of charitable giving, consider a gift of financial fitness for a fellow Oregonian. It may not be easy to wrap, but it's tax deductible. The Oregon Individual Development Account Initiative (IDA) is funded by donations, and a new study of the program confirms its effectiveness.

Oregon IDA provides matching money to lower-income Oregonians who take a rigorous personal finance course and save for a major goal that might otherwise be out of reach, such as a home or college education. When an Oregon IDA participant meets their savings goal, the program matches the amount saved, three to one.

The success rate is high, according to the Portland State University researcher who gauged the effectiveness of the program, Diane Yatchmenoff.

"What we found was that people really appreciated learning to budget and being forced to make savings. Even people who didn't complete it, 95 percent of their feedback on the program was positive. People say, 'It's been so good for me; it's changed the way that I think about money.'"

Yatchmenoff says more than 1,600 people have met their goals.

"All of the matching dollars literally go straight to helping people buy a home, purchase an asset for a business or go back to school. And there are very careful controls over the spending of the money. The money isn't just handed to the participant; it actually is paid directly out to the asset."

The Oregon Legislature created the IDA in 1999 to help people attain financial security. Donations are eligible for a state tax credit of 75 percent. Oregon IDA is administered by Neighborhood Partnerships, through multiple organizations around the state.

More information and the Portland State University report are available at http://ida.neighborhoodpartnerships.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR