By Alan Prahl

For the past eight years, Money Smart Week Fox Cities has sponsored the Financial Makeover Challenge. Participants have posted some impressive results, paying off thousands of dollars in debt and adding thousands in new savings. But how are these people doing years after they completed the challenge?

To find out, FISC recently contacted past challenge participants. Here is a summary of the results.

Do you have an established budgeting system? 10 yes, 1 no, 1 working on it

Do you pay all bills on time? 11 yes, 0 no, 1 working on it

Do you regularly track income and spending? 9 yes, 2 no, 1 working on it

Do you save money each month? 9 yes, 1 no, 2 working on it

Has your participation in the challenge reduced worry and stress about money? 11 yes, 1 somewhat

Has the challenge given you confidence in your ability to handle money? 10 yes, 2 somewhat

I would recommend FISC to others? 10 strongly agree, 2 agree, 0 disagree

The Financial Information & Service Center or FISC provided the financial coaches that worked with the Challenge participants. Here are some comments from past participants:

“The challenge was life-changing for us. We bought a cabin up north, which was exciting.”

FISC turned my life around.”

FISC was extremely helpful. Our kids know the envelope system and have learned you don’t just throw it on the credit card.”

Life has been fantastic since the challenge. We have a regular budget and don’t use credit cards.”

Things are going great. We still use cash envelopes, regularly put money into savings and have our retirement in 40 months all planned out.”

Every year when the results from the challenge are announced there is spontaneous applause from the audience. We are moved when we hear single moms say they now have hope for a better life. We shared the joy of a couple announcing that as a result of working with their financial coach they have reached their dream and she is able to be a stay-at-home mom.

It is heartwarming to see these long-term results and glowing comments. That doesn’t mean that life was easy. Participants still had every-day difficulties like medical bills and car repairs along with more serious situations like divorce, job changes and dealing with the exorbitant cost of college. But working with their financial coach has given them a framework for financial strength and stability. They have a system for living within their income, paying bills on time and regularly saving money. They have more confidence and peace of mind about money that has stuck with them years after they participated in the challenge.

If you know anyone with financial questions who would like more peace of mind about money, encourage them to check out FISC at www.fisc-cccs.org. A financial coach can help you get a clearer picture of your financial situation and the options to improve it.