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By contrast to the Standard, the FPL is based on a single cost – food – and an outdated formula that assumes food costs are roughly one-third of any given family’s overall expenses.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