Social change work is hard and frustrating and wonderful and terrible; it is also, at times, funny, quirky and just plain fascinating. With this blog we hope to capture all that goes into what we do at Capital Good Fund, and we invite you to join the conversation!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Mental Stress of Fewer Options

My Experience
The summer before college I found a job babysitting that would earn me enough to cover my first year books and possibly leave some left over for some fun college activities.  The job was in Newport, about 45 minutes (on a good day) from my house.  Rather than waste money on gas, I decided to take the bus every day.  One summer morning, I went to my usual stop, walking just over a mile to get there.  I saw the bus coming down the street and stepped forward with my change in-hand.  I was standing in plain sight, right under the bus sign but that bus didn’t even slow down.  I even saw a few people point at me as I waved my arms in an attempt to get the attention of the driver, but no luck.
So here I was, standing alone on the side of the road.  I frantically worked my way through my options: There were still 45 minutes until the next bus, which would make me late for my new job; I could call a cab, but that would cost me more than I earned that day at least and who knows how long it would take them to get me.  I could ask a friend but who would be able and willing to drive 1.5 hours round trip?  Luckily, I had access to my parent’s car.  I just had to ask them and I was able to use it for the day.  But what if that Hadn’t been an option?  What If I had needed to go with one of those first 3 options?  I would have either been late, paid an outrageous fee or missed the day completely.  Besides the monetary outcomes of these undesirable choices, I also felt hopeless.  A feeling of panic that I couldn’t control my own circumstances and didn’t know what decision to make.  
Decision Making at Capital Good Fund
After being at Capital Good Fund for 4 years, I see many of our clients deal with the stress of decision making on a regular basis.  Decisions around transportation, food security, work, education and the best for their families.  Recent research has indicated that the mental stress of the decision making process can lead to poorer decisions and a less productive day.  A recent New York Times article points to this issue as a reason many people in poverty make what others may consider to be bad decisions.  

It is easy to overlook my incident and consider small decisions as isolated, manageable cases.  But the research is there and the fact is that those incidents add up quickly and reduce the efficiency of our thought processes.  At Capital Good Fund, our goal is to help people achieve financial stability so that some of the decisions they need to make for their family become clearer.  To get help our clients become financially stable our coaches create budgets and debt management plans, to make the path clear; we try to connect qualified individuals to public programs like food stamps which allow for food security; we promote access to affordable healthcare that could prevent the decision between proper health care and dinner on the table.  By preparing for basic needs, we can help eliminate the most stressful of decisions for families that are overwhelmed with serious daily choices.  

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