A carpenter by trade, Scott VanNatta builds houses for people all the time. But until recently, he never had one to call his own.
With the help of a local savings program, VanNatta and his girlfriend, Rachel Stecklein, became the proud first-time homeowners of a cozy house on Dubuque’s Kaufmann Avenue.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to come home to my own place,” VanNatta said. “I’m actually working toward something now, and I’m going to own this place someday.”
The couple purchased the house Oct. 22 through a savings program at Dupaco.
In Dupaco’s Individual Development Account (IDA) program, the savings of a participant are matched by a dollar-for-dollar grant from the Iowa Credit Union Foundation. When additional funding is available, as was the case this time, the savings are matched by a 2-to-1 dollar grant.
Dupaco opens the savings account and provides financial coaching required by the program to help ensure the participant’s goals are met.
Saving money from every paycheck, Stecklein and VanNatta eventually accrued $2,000, with another $4,000 matched by the foundation. About 1½ years after enrolling in the IDA program, the young couple used the money to make a down payment on their first house.
“Rachel was thrilled about the IDA program, and she couldn’t get over the fact that there was going to be a $4,000 match,” said Dupaco’s Paula Ervolino, who was the couple’s financial coach. “She was nervous about it all coming together, and when it did she was smiling from ear to ear.”
Stecklein was a full-time graduate student when she heard about the IDA program. She and VanNatta both lived at home with their parents, and they were saving little by little to eventually buy a house together. The IDA program was the boost they needed.
“Without some type of help, we wouldn’t have been able to move for awhile,” said Stecklein, who has since graduated and has become a social worker at The Finley Hospital.
While Stecklein has been a diligent saver for many years, her boyfriend was living paycheck to paycheck before they got serious about buying a home. They both credit the savings program for teaching them valuable life lessons about their finances.
Stecklein says it afforded her the opportunity to learn more about her credit score and all of the costs that come with homeownership. For VanNatta’s part, the program caused him to re-evaluate his spending habits. Instead of dining out every day, he now packs a lunch to take to work. He’s also more conscious about conserving gas, taking care of multiple errands during one trip.
“It might not seem like a lot of money at one time, but if you do that for a whole year, think about how much you are saving,” he said.
Before the couple enrolled in the savings program, they were not Dupaco members. But because of their positive experience with the credit union, they are both in the process of moving all of their accounts to Dupaco.
“They’ve been great to work with. They’ve played a big part in everything,” said VanNatta, who predicts Dupaco will continue to play an important role in their long-term goals and dreams.
The couple hopes to someday marry and start a family in their new home. In the meantime, they will continue saving what they can to fix their house up right--a new roof, new siding, new windows, maybe even a walk-in closet for Stecklein.
“I think they will continue to be good savers,” Ervolino said. “Even at the closing, we talked about applying more money to the mortgage payments to save more money in the future.”
The couple says Dupaco’s savings program has helped them live the American dream.
“I wish more people would do it, because it helped us so much,” VanNatta said. “We probably wouldn’t be in a house yet had we not done this program.”
Participants must meet income guidelines and be residents of or purchase assets in the state of Iowa to qualify for an IDA account. The savings and matching funds are then used by the individual to purchase a specific asset, such as a home, starting or expanding a small business, paying for education or job training, or purchasing a vehicle to get to work.
Credit union members interested in more information on an IDA may contact Dupaco’s Member Services Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (563) 557-7600 / 800-373-7600, ext. 206.