Anonymous (Financial Literacy Counseling - New Opportunities)
Emily (not her real name) is a 28 year old Hispanic female with a 3 year old son. When I first met Emily she was living in an apartment in West Des Moines with her son after fleeing from an abusive relationship. The abuse was physical as well as emotional. Emily had never before managed money. She had no knowledge of how to develop a budget. Her husband had managed the entire bill paying and writing of checks. She was working part time earning about $7.75 per hour.
Emily began looking for full time employment. As well as trying to manage the household finances, and everyday living, she was trying to gain her citizenship and pay for a divorce lawyer. Emily had never paid a utility bill, written a check, balanced a checkbook or knew how to develop a workable budget.
Emily began filling out applications and was able to secure full time employment. She was paid bi-weekly. We began by working on finding suitable childcare. Emily and I began by figuring out what bills need to be paid with each of her paychecks. She would track them on her calendar, as well as her paydays. As she was paid we entered her deposits in her checkbook and subtracted the bills that were due. She went to the bank and ordered duplicate checks so she would be sure not to miss a check in her check register. I also told her that she would need to also set some money aside from each paycheck for her attorney fees. Emily started a savings account and would put money away each time she was paid.
When Emily received her bank statement I worked with her on reconciliation of the bank statement and making sure she was accountable for getting her monthly bills paid. Things were not always easy. She would tell me how hard it was to keep track of everything and how much time it took. I assured her that the longer she worked at it the easier it would become.
Emily began working some overtime and she thought that even though her finances were very tight she would try and save all of the overtime and put it into her saving account for her attorney fees.
We worked on basic record keeping for her expenses, and what important documents to keep (birth certificates, tax returns, immunization records.) and the importance of paying bills on time to ensure she would develop a good credit history.
After several months Emily figured out that she had saved enough money to pay for her divorce attorney. Soon after that, her divorce became final. She is now saving her money to pay for her US citizenship.
I feel that Emily is truly a success story. She understands the importance of hard work, paying bills and trying to save.
By Carol Bayer, Financial Literacy Counselor