One of the co-founders of an innovative money management tool tailored to individuals in early recovery recalls the degree to which financial management challenges threatened to compromise his own long-term wellness.
“My father had tried working with me, but I had no concept of the value of a dollar,” says Eric Dresdale, co-founder of the Next Step Prepaid MasterCard. “And a lot of the things I learned quickly disappeared as I was coming out of treatment.”
Dresdale and business partner Ryan Jaffe, who met during their stay in a halfway house program, had batted around the concept of a card resembling a college meal plan card that would help control reckless spending by individuals in recovery. They took their idea to a third individual, Louis Fisher, who had been in primary treatment with Dresdale and had a good deal of business experience. The idea would evolve into the concept of a prepaid card under which a parent, spouse or other significant person in a recovering individual’s life would be able to plan, manage and oversee the individual’s spending.
The process of working with a bank and with MasterCard to establish the program took about 18 months to complete, and the Next Step card was launched in late October.
“We have a number of cardholders who have continued to use this; they are thankful for it and think it’s terrific,” says Dresdale, who with his business partners established Next Step Network, LLC. “The average age of the user so far has been 20 to 30.”
The co-founders explain the numerous ways in which families are utilizing the benefits of the Next Step card’s features:
· Daily spending limits and monthly transaction maximums can be imposed—the message is that spending should take place responsibly and therefore in a systematic fashion. Says Dresdale, “You don’t want them going to the store three times a day. They should plan their purchases.”
· The parent or other supporter has the opportunity to receive customized electronic alerts regarding the recovering individual’s card balance and transactions. “They can receive daily or weekly updates,” says Jaffe.
· A photo image of the card user can be included on the card, in an attempt to discourage the selling or trading of the card.
· Use of the card is generally prohibited at certain types of establishment, so that inappropriate/dangerous spending at locations such bars, gaming centers and pawn shops can be prevented. “My experience in working with others, such as sponsees of mine, is that they may be given money to go grocery shopping or to pay rent, and they’ll go get a tattoo or some new clothes instead,” says Jaffe. He and his business partners are not far removed from that type of spending mindset themselves; the three co-founders range in age from mid-20s to early 30s.
· Use of the card at ATMs or other outlets for cash-back purposes is prohibited. Says Dresdale, “While all the users of the card know they can’t get money this way, many have tried and have been denied.”
The supporter retains the ability to block use of the card upon seeing patterns of irresponsible spending, such the recovering individual eating regularly at fast-food restaurants instead of visiting the grocery store. The supporter also can receive monthly progress reports that grade the loved one’s performance on a number of variables related to spending behavior.
The Next Step website (www.nextstepcard.com) refers to the new product as “the first prepaid MasterCard designed for the recovery community to offer controls that build trust to foster growth.” Charges to participate include a one-time enrollment fee and a monthly fee.
The founders also have made available a budgeting tool that allows the individual and companion to set spending plans in a variety of areas. “Ultimately our goal is that these individuals get to the point where they are self-supporting,” Jaffe says.
Working with centers
A couple of recovery programs have worked with Next Step’s founders to put their clients on the program. Dresdale says he and his partners would like to bring the card into inpatient and intensive outpatient settings.
“This would be a way for therapists to work with multiple people on issues of financial responsibility,” he says.
Jaffe says that while it took him a long time in his own recovery to engage in responsible budgeting, he is increasingly impressed that today many treatment programs are seeking to incorporate sound aftercare with a strong emphasis on the everyday life skills that play a pivotal role in supporting recovery.