Ronald Harvey photo

Harvey

For families facing money management challenges, financial literacy programs can be a difference maker in helping them take control of their financial future. With April designated as National Financial Literacy month, now is the perfect time for families to do some financial spring cleaning.

Most families, regardless of income level, face financial trials and tribulations at some point. Those challenges are multiplied for low-income families, who often find themselves living paycheck-to-paycheck. Consider these two statistics from Bankrate.com:

● 60 percent of families can’t afford a $1,000 emergency expense;

● 20 percent of working Americans aren’t saving any money for retirement.

Because of the powerful economic impact that financial literacy can have on families and communities, many municipal agencies, private employers and nonprofit organizations in Murfreesboro have supported financial literacy programs over the years.

Tennessee is among the nation’s best in teaching financial literacy in high school. In its 2017 National Report Card, Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy gave Tennessee an “A” for its efforts to improve financial literacy in high schools. Our state is one of only five to receive the highest grade.

Financial literacy is about understanding the basics of managing money. It is about knowing how to create a budget, figuring out how much money to save each month and learning the importance of managing a credit score. It is also about empowering people to develop new habits that will help them achieve their financial goals.

As a financial wellbeing coach with Operation HOPE (a nonprofit organization working to disrupt poverty and empower inclusion for low- and moderate-income youth and adults), I work closely with families in Murfreesboro. I have witnessed the positive impact financial literacy can have and how the programs can change individual attitudes and spending habits.

Through our partnership with First Tennessee Bank, we offer free financial empowerment workshops held in our Operation HOPE Inside locations in 14 First Tennessee financial centers across the state. Participation is free and open to anyone interested in learning. In Murfreesboro, HOPE Inside is located at 808 South Church St.

During these three-hour workshops, which are held on the second Saturday each month, we teach ways to improve credit scores, budgeting techniques, and strategies to pay off debt.

Anyone who completes the workshop can schedule a private counseling session to get one-on-one advice and continue improving money management skills. That’s when the program pays dividends for the participants. It’s where they create short-, intermediate- and long-term goals and learn how to put a customized plan in place to achieve them.

For many Americans, financial stress is part of everyday life. A December 2017 Harris Poll found that 87 percent of respondents who are employed full-time or have a spouse working full-time are at least “somewhat stressed” about their current finances. That stress affects their ability to work. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management estimates that approximately 37 percent of human resource officers said employees missed work because of a financial emergency.

Every person deserves the opportunity to improve their financial health and economic standing. Financial literacy programs provide families with the resources and education necessary to achieve those goals.

In today’s increasingly complex and interconnected financial world, having a solid foundation for managing personal finances is necessary. Financial literacy programs, like the ones supported by First Tennessee are an ideal place to start the journey toward mastering personal finances.

Ronald Harvey is a Financial Wellbeing Coach for Operation HOPE and has 20 years of experience in the community development field. He is an Accredited Financial Counselor and Certified Personal Financial Educator. He can be reached at ronald.harvey@operationhope.org.

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