08/28/13 — Financial literacy program unveiled

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Financial literacy program unveiled

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on August 28, 2013 1:46 PM

The United Way of Wayne County introduced its new financial literacy initiative to a gathering of about 50 people Tuesday at the Lane Tree Golf Club, including representatives from area banks and non-profit service organizations.

The program, expected to open to the public in January, aims at expanding the number of people in Wayne County using bank accounts while educating them on good financial practices, United Way Associate Director Karen Schneider said.

The program will offer classes on balancing a checkbook and managing a budget as well as other financial topics.

The breakfast meeting focused on introducing the public to the program so that when the classes are available in January the organizations will be able to refer people to the program they think would benefit from it.

"It went wonderfully. We had a good mix of people from various organizations," Ms. Schneider said. "They seemed positive and receptive to the opportunity."

She said that many of the faces in the room had been "at the table" from the start and had helped in identifying the gap in the community that the program aims to fill.

"Many of the people we are trying to reach use what we call alternative financial services," Ms. Schneider said. "These could be pay day lenders, check cashers or informal check cashers."

The problem with these types of services are the costs associated with these services, usually a percentage of the check being cashed.

"They are taking money they have earned and use part of that to access what we get for free." Ms. Schneider said. "It's just something they haven't learned yet. We're trying to help them keep more of their money."

According to the United Way, cashing checks using alternative financial services could cost a person up to $40,000 over a lifetime.

After the initial four module program is completed, there are about 10 other modules that participants can complete on topics such as managing a credit card, buying a mortgage and loans.

Judy Daniels, a business services officer with BB&T, is one of the participating bank employees helping with the training.

"We see a need in the community, and we want to help with that," Ms. Daniels said.

Once participants complete the program they can go to BB&T and open an account, but the education doesn't stop there.

"We're helping financially and with a product so once they complete the course they can come open an account," Ms. Daniels said. "Then we're going to continue to provide education for them."

Ms. Daniels is one of the bank representatives who will teach the classes.

Lt. Kenny Igleheart with the Salvation Army said he is excited to partner with United Way on the program to help the families who come to him and his organization for help.

"I had heard rumors of it for a while. I see this as a problem with our clients going to check cashing places. We see this as a need in the community. We're just asking to see how the army can help cover more people."

Igleheart said he is glad to hear that banks are on board with the program.

"A lot of these people see banks as bad, because of the fees, but it's good to hear they want to help," Igleheart said. "I'm excited to see what the literacy part encompasses."

Linda Holden-Cox is the executive director of Wayne Uplift, a domestic violence awareness group centered on helping remove women from abusive relationships.

"We're very excited about the program," Mrs. Holden-Cox said. "It is going to be very beneficial to women under banked or not banked. It will help them establish a financial situation when their spouse was the primary provider."

The program will run through its pilot phase at First African Baptist Church before opening to the public after the first of the year at Literacy Connections of Wayne County.