Career planning is a critical element of making progress toward economic self-sufficiency. The journey is often long and not always linear. It involves movement along a career pathway, or across different pathways, and good planning requires integration of many different types of information – cost of living, labor market, wages, training requirements, etc. The Self-Sufficiency Calculator was designed to support good career planning, helping individuals to understand where they are starting, explore options, and make decisions about what to do next.
It’s important for individuals to know what they’re shooting for and for programs to know how well they’re doing in helping customers move toward greater economic security and self-sufficiency. The Self-Sufficiency Standard provides us with a benchmark to inform individual planning and assess progress.
The Standard is a sophisticated metric that addresses limitations inherent in other measures of economic well-being, most notably the federal poverty guidelines (commonly known as the federal poverty level or FPL). Unlike the FPL, the Standard uses validated national, state, and local data to determine individual costs of living and account for variations in those costs by geographic location and family composition.
By contrast to the Standard, the FPL is based on a single cost – food – and an outdated formula that assumes food costs are roughly one-third of any given family’s overall expenses. The FPL also cannot capture variations in costs faced by families in different parts of the country (i.e., it costs more to live in L.A. than in Topeka) and by family composition (i.e., a family of three with two adults and one child faces different expenses than a single parent with two children).
The Standard report is packed with great info, but it can be hard to find just what you need in a print report. In 2006-07, with generous funding from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and eight other workforce development councils, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County launched the Washington State Self-Sufficiency Calculator to:
that integrates cost of living information (the Standard), basic budgeting, and career and vocational planning
about work supports, such as food stamps or subsidized health care, that can help when expenses exceed income (see Resources page for more info about these supports)
to measure their effect on customers’ ability to make progress toward economic self-sufficiency
The Calculator is maintained by the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, in partnership with other WDCs in the state, and is updated with new data every 2-3 years. The WDC of Seattle-King County oversees WorkSourceSKC at more than 40 locations in King County as part of the statewide WorkSource network and national American Job Center network. The WDC also provides ongoing training to staff in our system and partners in our community to support use of the Calculator.
In King County, case managers use the Calculator as a counseling tool, supporting customers to gain a sense of their financial situation, goals, opportunities, and challenges. Case managers are also required to save customer income and expense data to the Calculator database at program registration, and again at program exit. This data can then be benchmarked against the Standard to measure whether customers move closer to economic self-sufficiency over the course of the time they participate in our programs.
The Calculator is also used in many other communities across the State. For local contacts in participating communities, see below: