Financial Literacy Workshop Kicks Off Empowerment Program
Managing money, credit and building financial security were among the topics at a Women’s Financial Literacy seminar presented by the Coalition for Far Rockaway’s (CFR) Women’s Eco nomic Empowerment Committee on January 14. The workshop, held at the Addabbo Family Health Center in Far Rockaway, was the first in a series leadership-training seminars to help women in Far Rockaway move out of the cycle of poverty.
"Sixty-Four percent of women headed households are asset poor," said Joyce Moy, the Director of LaGuardia Community College’s Small Business Development Center. "[This means] if their salary or other sources of income are taken away they cannot survive, even at the poverty level, for more than three months."
There are several steps to be on the road to financial independence.
"It’s important for folks who are looking to build economic security to first look at the issue of budget," Moy told the women in the audience. "You have to be realistic about how much is going in and how much is going out."
A detailed cost of living budget sheet was distributed for use in calculating monthly cash flow. Most of her clients, Moy said, are usually in the red after subtracting their expenses from their income.
"They don’t have enough to cover what it is that they need to cover for their main needs and requirements," continued Moy. "When that happens there’s only two choices for you, you either have to increase your revenues or cut back on your expenses."
The hard decisions to disappoint a child by telling them they can’t have the latest sneakers or go on a class trip, or to take the money from somewhere else in the budget is being made in households everyday.
"We need to make sure that our clients get a realistic grip on this and start making the right choices," said Moy, who had her own experience in making those right choices having grown up in poor surroundings. "It’s not easy."
Using coupons, reading the newspaper online instead of buying it and using an ATM at your own bank can all help increase income in a household. Little things add up.
Many people borrow from their credit cards when cash runs low.
"[On top of the money you borrow], you’re paying 22 percent interest," described Moy. "When you borrow that money it will eat away at another 22 percent unit you have that you’re saving for the rent, clothes, [and] your kids when school starts."
Like everything else in your budget, you need to know that you can pay that money back, above the minimum payment, in a reasonable time period.
Watch out for credit cards with annual fees, late charges and high interest rates. Two brand name credit cards (American Express, Master Card, or Visa) and one department store are the only cards a person needs. Too many credit cards can hurt a person’s credit rating.
Debit cards can also cause problems.
"[People] don’t concretely see the link between the debit cards and the balance in the bankbook or checking account," she said.
She suggested that people should obtain copies of their credit reports from all three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion.
"Sometimes one company will carry something and another company won’t, so you don’t know what company your creditor, your bank, your credit card company, your mortgage company or your finance company is going to go to," explained Moy.
If you’re denied credit, you’re entitled to a free copy of the credit report used in denying you credit. You can request copies of your credit reports by calling, writing or accessing the websites of the credit bureaus. You must report and repair any mistakes in your credit reports immediately.
"We need to asset where we are, know that we can meet our day-to-day expenses on a yearly basis and then start to look at what [we] want to do," said Moy.
On short-term basis you can decide to completely payoff your credit card debt. Farther down the road you might want to have money for a house, to take a trip or to retire.
"Before we do that, let’s make sure we have our immediate needs taken care of and the needs of your family85. We’re talking about security," concluded Moy.
Wajeedah Anderson-Beyah is member of the leadership team at JHS 180.
"I can take [this information] back to the leadership team85and give it to the parents," said Anderson-Beyah, who believes that such knowledge can empower others on the subject of economics.
The next leadership-training workshop, Starting a Successful Microen terprise, will be held March 3 at 10 a.m. at the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center on Central Avenue.