OPTA designs customized savings programs for its nonprofit or corporate clients. These programs often feature financial incentives that are offered to individual savers by the program sponsor as a way to help them remain motivated and on task. Programs are offered either as turnkey for direct implementation by the organization; or managed, which retains OPTA for ongoing data management and program support. We specialize in the following categories of incentivized savings programs:
Children’s Savings Accounts (CSA)
CSAs typically refer to savings programs that are offered on a large-scale for the benefit of the children and families in a geographic region. CSAs help parents to setup accounts for their children from an early age. Funds accumulated in CSAs are generally made available to the beneficiaries as they graduate high school and get ready to pursue postsecondary education opportunities or start a business.
Savings Accelerator Accounts (SAA)
SAA is OPTA’s award-winning behavioral savings platform. SAA programs are the perfect choice for a community based organization that intends to promote healthy financial habits among its constituents through saving and behavior change. SAA programs complement financial literacy or financial coaching and case management programs. SAA programs are simple to understand, flexible in design, cost effective to administer, and offer meaningful and attractive incentives to savers. SAA is powered by Savings Path, OPTA’s online data management system.
What is Saving's Path
Savings Path is an online database system that is designed to support large scale managed savings programs. Children’s Savings Account programs, savings campaigns, employer based savings programs, or other incentivized savings programs can use Savings Path to manage program enrollments, and keep track of participant savings and ongoing deposit activity.
Savings Path provides non-paralleled capabilities that serve to increase the sophistication and efficiency of savings programs. Some of the unique features of Savings Path include:
1- Incentive Calculator – Incentive calculator is embedded in the savings plan. Using the calculator program administrators can design different models of savings for different purposes. By assigning each account to a savings plan, incentive amount will be calculated according to the parameters of the plan.
2- Tracking – In some applications including Savings Accelerator Accounts, savings incentives are distributed periodically. With Savings Path you can keep separate track of the amount of savings incentive accrued and the portion that is distributed at a given point in time.
3- Batch Upload – Upload list of new participants, ongoing deposits, and incentive transfers using data organized in an excel file.
4- Multiple Savings Plans - Define different savings plans, combine different incentive criteria for each plan, including prize-linked incentive structures
5- Multi-track Models – With Savings Path you can define savings plans that feature multiple savings tracks. (This is recommended for programs that include varying incentives structures or programs that include succession plans for savers at different stages of the program)
6- Reports and Statements – Create program activity report and generate account statements with a breakdown of amounts saved by the participant, regular bank interest or dividends, and program specific incentives, in English and Spanish.
Individual Development Accounts (IDA)
IDAs are matched savings accounts that allow the account holders to save small sums of money over time and receive a match on saved dollars toward investment in qualified long term assets; typically a first home, business capitalization, postsecondary education, or a personal vehicle for work-related commute. Most of the existing IDA programs receive federal funding through the Assets for Independence Program (AFI) or the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Department of Health and Human Services. These programs and often supplemented with private funds. OPTA offers cost-effective solutions for nonprofit organizations to manage their IDA programs and generate program reports. IDAX (Id-x) is a program management system designed by OPTA that offers unparalleled convenience to all grantees across the nation in managing their IDA projects.
What is IDAX?
IDAX is a unique database system that offers a full range of capabilities for managing a variety of IDA programs. The system is designed to handle multiple grants from the same or different sources, track activities related to funds draw downs and the project reserve fund, collect participant data, savings activity, match distribution, as well as training hours completed by participants.
What are some of the Capabilities of IDAX?
IDAX is designed by industry experts with hands on experience in managing IDA programs. As such, certain capabilities in IDAX are uniquely designed to address circumstances that are not generally possible in other systems. For example, IDAX includes a section on client orientation leading to program enrollment. It also includes a comprehensive training scheduling and tracking module. The visual setup utility in IDAX allows network, as well as single agency projects to define programmatic details of every IDA grant they manage.
The system includes an Asset Purchase Checklist that allows case managers to verify if a participant has met all program requirements before processing a match request. In handling asset purchases, the system allows for canceling records of previous match requests and updates all records and even reports according to changes made to asset purchases and match distribution.
The system is designed with maximum attention to details. For instance, the user can record temporary leaves of absence for participants who need to take time off from saving; monitor account withdrawals that are not authorized by program staff; or track emergency withdrawals.
What are IDAX Reporting Capabilities?
With IDAX, generating the AFI annual reports is as easy as clicking a few buttons. With only a few clicks, the system will check the consistency of data, identify cases that include missing information and create reports based on existing templates.
IDAX uses the AFI report templates to populate key data points in AFI reports. Simply, print the report and copy the information into sections of the AFI annual data portal. Using IDAX you can also generate customized reports for other purposes. A separate section on ORR IDA data reports allows ORR IDA grantees to generate their quarterly reports in a just a few seconds.
Financial coaching and case management is a process of financial mentoring and interaction with clients that stretches over several months with the ultimate goal of improving the overall financial wellbeing of clients. OPTA recommends a data assisted approach to financial coaching that involves collection, analysis, and tracking of household-level data. The client data is used to design effective coaching plans. OPTAMetrics is OPTA’s data assisted financial coaching solution to revolutionize the practice of financial coaching across nonprofit and community based organizations. OPTA offers special training for financial coaches and provides access to OPTAMetrics to help financial coaches take their practice to the next level.
What is OPTAMetrics
OPTAMetrics is a comprehensive financial case management system. It is designed to capture and store financial and behavioral information of financial coaching clients, analyze the resulting data, and create quantitative measures and financial indicators of household wellbeing. These indicators are stored chronologically and the system allows the user to compare them, in a before and after fashion, to measure the degree of effectiveness or impact of the program.
In addition, you can define and track the delivery of other programs, products, or services, using OPTAMetrics. A number of administrative reports embedded in the system, makes it a unique tool for managing programs across different departments.
Is Training Available for OPTAMetrics?
Yes, OPTA provides a series of workshops to help train users on different aspect of OPTAMetrics and Data Assisted Financial Coaching. Following is a list of workshops along with a brief description of their contents.
1- Introduction to Coaching and Asset Building – Workshop highlights the differences in the asset building approach, and defines a target market for financial coaching
2- Data Assisted Financial Coaching – Workshop covers issues related to standardization and data collection. It also discusses Data Assisted Financial Coaching (DAFC) methodology in reference to the equilibrium model of the household.
3- Data Points and Financial Metrics – Module covers key data points under Household Information, Cash Flow, Balance Sheet, and Financial Access. It includes hands on examples using OPTAMetrics.
4- OPTAMetrics Overview – The workshops offers an overview of OPTAMetrics and introduces some of the main features of the system. The second part of the workshop discusses issues related to benchmarking of household expenses.
5- Behavioral Grading – Workshop introduces different behavioral surveys available on the system and discusses their grading process.
6- Case Example (Part I) – This workshop will walk trainees through a DAFC example. Trainees will use OPTAMetrics to enter client data and will discuss the coaching plan and strategy in order to achieve the desired results.
7- DAFC in Practice – This module will provide tips and information on how to use DAFC to assist clients as part of a six-step financial case management process.
There are three additional modules similar to Case Example (Part I) that cover different financial scenarios using information from different types of households.
8- Case Example (Part II)
9- Case Example (Part III)
10- Case Example (Part IV)
How Does it Work
After completing training, counselors enter client information into the system during counseling sessions. Information obtained during each session is stored in the system as a separate record. Counselors can analyze each record, print reports or even combine different records to measure changes in specific indicators for different cross sections of time.
OPTAMetrics can also be used to track programs and services offered by different departments in the organization. It allows the user to define what these programs and services are and track individuals who benefit from these services. Organizations can also use OPTAMetrics to keep track of their training workshops and assign pre- and post-test scores for each workshop.
What are some of the Reporting Features?
OPTAMetrics provides reports by combining different financial ratios and behavioral scores. Financial scores are compared against recommended ranges. Behavioral scores are presented in the form of letter grades ranging from A (highest) to F (lowest), making it very easy to interpret results.
The system also generates reports that are easy to understand for clients. The counselor can print a budget report that shows existing amounts next to target levels for each client. Other reports explain different financial ratios in an easy to understand language for the client.
The reporting feature in OPTAMetrics provides several additional administrative tools, including demographic information of clients that could be customized among other things based on several attributes, such as age, gender, marital status, or language spoken. The system is also capable of storing client documents and case notes and can even track the amount of time counselors spend providing support to each client.
This path breaking approach allows community based organizations to improve the quality of their financial coaching and case management services and brings a level of sophistication to the practice of financial case management that remains unparalleled in the industry.
OPTA is your one-stop shop for most data analytic needs. We provide a wide range of services in the area of data collection, analysis, reporting, and program evaluation. Let our knowledgeable staff help you with designing data collection tools, analysis models, an evaluation plans. If necessary, OPTA will even develop technology to assist you with your specific data collection and computation needs. We offer data analytic capabilities that cover a wide range of applications including models for testing data, simulation, and forecasting. OPTA offers discount pricing to individual researchers who need assistance with conducting statistical analysis and modeling for their educational projects.
We provide customized technology to businesses in order to help them meet their data collection and reporting needs. Our affordable solutions offer the convenience of meeting clients’ exact data collection and reporting requirements and our reliable customer support offers the assurance that system maintenance and upgrades are performed promptly when needed. Our services are available at rates that are affordable even for small nonprofit organizations or business startups.
Our efforts are directed to help the less privileged members of society gain access to opportunities that life offers everyone for a secure and prosperous qualify of life. We believe in the gradual process of accumulation of wealth and its transformational power in shaping behavior that is conducive to economic wellbeing. Our goal is to transform "equal opportunity" into "equal access" through wealth-building strategies.
The collapse of the housing market and the rapid increase in the national unemployment rate to double digit figures were the trademarks of the Great Recession of the third millennium. These developments have once again put poverty in the spotlight. Regardless of political ideology or emphasis on “social justice” or “economic efficiency”, poverty is a refractory social disease that needs to be addressed effectively if either of these ideals is to be achieved. Poverty, if left unchecked, will lead to a polarized society and will undermine economic stability.
There is a cornucopia of reasons, institutional and otherwise, that explain why people fall into poverty. But in a broad brush view of the world, there are only two different types of poverty experienced in different parts of the world. In the third world countries, poverty remains primarily a growth related phenomenon where societies are unable to produce goods and services sufficient to provide a minimum level of economic wellbeing for their citizens. In advanced societies, however, the problem of poverty is primarily distribution-related; goods and services are produced in sufficient amounts, but their distribution means many do not have enough to consume. Attempts to redistribute goods and services to the poor are helping, but there is a limit to which redistribution can be pursued as a sound macroeconomic policy. So, on a parallel track to redistribution, advanced societies are making progress in improving their economic and political systems by instituting more inclusionary policies designed to create opportunities for the poor and help them gain access to the economic mainstream. Examples of these policies are numerous, but the common denominator among them is mostly a knowledge-based or empowerment-focused approach. There is a widely held belief in the field of practice that poverty can be addressed by lifting barriers and transferring knowledge to the poor.
At OPTA, we believe that such measures are necessary but not sufficient. The knowledge-based approach is usually most effective when used preventatively. For people who are already trapped in poverty however, preventative policy measures that only aim to expand opportunities are not always effective. While the jury is still out on the exact reasons for this, we suspect that there is a distinct behavioral element to poverty that limits the success of such measures. Perhaps, at some point, life in poverty transmutes from a mere state of financial livelihood into to a state of mind. If the poor feel uncompetitive and disillusioned, the traditional notion of maximizing (rational) behavior suggested by the mainstream economic theory is simply not tenable. Instead, we believe that people in poverty tend to employ “survival” as their dominant behavioral strategy. Due to lack of access to reliable sources of information, social networks, or proper insurance mechanisms to avoid excessive risks, low income families often face higher costs in their everyday decisions. Therefore, a maximizing behavior that requires a subjective cost-benefit algorithm in a decision-making process becomes less and less relevant for low income households since they usually face higher costs in given decision situations.
To put this into perspective, imagine that a low-income household is offered a chance to invest a sum of money for two years with a guaranteed high rate of return. For obvious reasons, even by assuming that the household has the required amount in lump sum in the first place, still, the decision to invest the money is riskier, therefore costlier to the low-income family who utilizes a survival strategy as compared to a non-low-income household that utilizes the benefit maximizing strategy. Both have an equal opportunity to benefit from investing their resources, yet chances are that the poor household will simply opt out. This cost disparity explains why low-income people are generally compelled to have shorter decision horizons.
We understand that our approach to poverty is neither unique nor universal in its application, but we believe that it still provides a logical explanation as well as a straightforward solution to the problem of poverty. In our opinion, almost everything that defines life in poverty is a consequence of decision horizon differences. And since the kinds of decisions that are most adversely affected by survival strategies are usually on the higher end of a risk-return tradeoff frontier (such as investments in education and human capital formation, health, and home-ownership where risks are high but so are the long term rewards), the inability of the low-income households to invest their limited resources in these areas calls for an active asset-based intervention as a potent strategy to help families break out of the cycle of poverty. It is in this spirit that we support asset-based, market-oriented approaches to reduce poverty. We strongly advocate for strategies that help restore the sense of competitiveness and self-confidence among the poor. We believe that certain interventions can have a deep psychological impact in helping the poor households to gradually transition away from a survival mode of existence and closer to the benefit maximizing mode of behavior. It is only then that we can hope for equal opportunity to imply equal access.
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