Economic woes and balancing personal finances can be challenging for anyone, but it can be doubly hard when someone is living in poverty or doesn’t speak the native language.
So the local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices in Chesterfield, Virginia, are equipping people with knowledge that helps them create a better economic future.
More than 6 percent of Chesterfield County lives below the poverty line. In homes where a single mom is raising kids, that number creeps as high as 31 percent. People living in these situations are especially vulnerable to losing control of their finances.
“We saw a challenge in our community that we thought we could help solve,” said Linda Cole, the family and consumer sciences agent in Chesterfield County. “This was a really rewarding program because we could see how many people we reached and how it made a difference in some many who are struggling to get by.”
Stories of those who have gone through the program have shown that the knowledge is paying off.
“I could have done better with my finances if I had known these financial management practices, such as always paying more than the minimum on my credit card bill,” said one local resident who went through the program.
Cole and other agents worked with more than 1,365 residents, offering them both one-on-one and group-training people on a number of financial topics, including reducing of credit debt, increase saving, budget monitoring of budget, stretching the food budget, and more.
Recognizing that their clientele is becoming more diverse, the classes were offered in Spanish as well as English.
Surveys showed 95 percent of participants learned at least one practice they would began immediately to help improve their finances. Ninety percent of the participants said this program taught them financial skills that would help them make better choices for themselves and their families. One-hundred percent wrote that they intend to write short-term goals, have a spending plan, set aside funds for an emergency, pay down debt and review their credit report annually.
“Empowering people to make good financial choices is not only good for our clients, it’s good for society,” Cole said.