When was your last financial check-up?

Published: Monday, August 11, 2008

Consumer Action presented a Money Management workshop at the NAACP Financial Empowerment Tour in Cincinnati, Ohio. The tour is designed to address vital areas of interest to African Americans, including wealth creation and maintenance, financial literacy, homeownership, retirement planning and entrepreneurship.

When Consumer Action’s Community Outreach Manager Linda Williams asked participants in her Money Management workshop, “When was your last financial check-up?” the question was met with raised eye brows and questioning looks. The Money Management workshop was one of three offered by the NAACP as it launched its “Financial Empowerment Tour,” scheduled to hit four major cites this year. The tour kicked off the 99th Annual NAACP Convention on July 11 in Cincinnati, OH. Themed “Banking on a Changed Mind,” the tour is designed to address vital areas of interest to African Americans, including wealth creation and maintenance, financial literacy, homeownership, retirement planning and entrepreneurship. Using the Money Wi$e materials created by Consumer Action and Capital One, Williams' presentation touched upon most if not all of these topics. Responding to the raised eyebrows, Williams explained that a financial check-up is a strategic tool to assist consumers in analyzing every area of their financial lives—banking, credit, savings, spending, investments, retirement plan, and insurance. It is a process where consumers can look for areas to cut wasteful spending, set financial goals, create a spending plan, and identify ways to save money. During the process, participants were challenged to learn how their money is being spent and to create a well-thought-out plan for future spending. Using a condensed version of the MoneyWi$e modules Basic Banking, Credit, Rebuilding Credit and Saving to Build Wealth, Williams illustrated how the materials can be used to complement a successful financial checkup. Using Basic Banking, Williams told participants that opening a bank account is a first step to building a relationship with a financial services company and establishing credit. Selecting a bank or credit union, opening an account and learning how to avoid bank fees are good ways to learn good money management skills. The MoneyWi$e program illustrates how to enter transactions in your checkbook register and balance your checking account, essential tools for good money management. During a segment on Credit, and Rebuilding, Williams pointed out how credit plays an important role as a safety net for emergencies. She encouraged participants to obtain a free a copy of their credit reports every four months. Fraud can negatively affect your credit, counseled Williams. She explained that all consumers are entitled to a free copy of “specialty consumer reports” from agencies like ChexSystem and ChoicePoint. Silence fell over the room when Williams asked participants if their savings would be enough to sustain them if they became disabled. Using the Saving to Build Wealth module, Williams suggested numerous savings and investment accounts, ways to save more and spend less and how to set financial goal. Williams ended by challenging participants to take the theme “Banking on a Changed Mind,” to heart by making a commitment to do a financial check-up. She asked participants to take out their iPhones, Blackberries and Day Planners and circle any date 30 to 40 days away as a deadline to complete their financial check-up. Start by gathering documents you need to review, suggested Williams, which may include wills, living trusts, insurance policies, retirement plans, investments, bank and credit card statements and credit and specialty consumer reports. “You can emerge from this process knowing where your money is going now, and with a plan to better manage your money in the future,” said Williams. “Make the financial check-up a tradition, and like all great traditions pass it on to someone you love.”
 
 
 

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