Building stairways to wealth
Building stairways to wealth
January 26, 2003
by Margaret Bailey
Just when Samantha Hutto, a 19-year-old Armstrong Atlantic State University student, pulls her financial ends close enough to meet, something comes along and moves the ends.
Besides going to school, Hutto works two jobs, earning a total of $6,000 a year. But like other college students, Hutto spends money on books, food, clothing and a car that needs something every time she has a few extra dollars. It leaves her with nothing to save.
Hutto is an example of who the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Georgia Consortium for Personal Financial Literacy hopes to encourage to start building wealth with as little as the cost of a candy bar.
"People don't think they can do it (save). This program can help them get there," said Jackie Ogden, the Chatham County Extension coordinator. "Getting started may be a matter of brown bagging lunch, changing from nationally-known to store brands or not eating out as much. It takes commitment and goal-setting."
Hutto was one of a handful who gathered as the Savannah State University library on Friday to hear how to do just that.
During an introduction, Ogden explained that the two Georgia groups formed a strategic partnership to bring the America Saves program to the Peach state -- it'll be called Georgia Saves.
The America Saves program began in Cleveland, Ohio, and has spread to other communities with success. Its goal is to encourage and motivate low to moderate income people to become savers.
Joining is free, said Ogden.
Some local organizations, agencies and banks are already on board and more are invited to join. The goal is to help find ways to make it easier to create bank accounts and investment opportunities for program participants, she said.
Most of the hour and a half program was live via satellite from Georgia State University. It was connected to other meeting sites in Georgia including Macon, Augusta and Columbus and speaker took questions from participants at each site.
One of the speakers was Michael Avery, a motivational speaker from the Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance.
Georgia Saves is a pathway to get a person from where he is to where he wants to be, said Avery. That could be from being so deep in debt that only your eyeballs are visible, to owing no one but still living pay check to pay check.
To illustrate what is possible, Avery talked about his mother and the struggles she experienced as a divorced woman.
His family lived in a one room house and washed clothes on a washboard, he said as he looked at his knuckles.
His mom found those conditions unacceptable and set goals to improve, one at a time. Whenever family members earned extra money, from cutting grass, selling cans or other odd jobs, it was pooled together. Six months later, they bought a wringer washer.
"She set a goal and enrolled us in it," he said.
Another goal of the program is to train financial mentors.
"We call people who want to help others save, 'wealth coaches' because in Cleveland, people had an aversion to being called counselors," said Debby Rushton, executive director of CharlotteSaves, who also spoke via satellite.
"The word counselor causes the public to think, 'There is something wrong with me,' where as coach means there is something good about you," she said.
A wealth coach can be anyone who has successfully completed training and is willing to volunteer two to four hours a month. They are then tasked with contacting new savers and encouraging them to continue with their saving habits.
Wealth coaches also assist with enrollment forms, saving plans and other similar duties.
Terry Newton, program assistant of the Housing Authority of Savannah, listened to the presentation and could see great opportunities for helping those she comes in contact with. She attends the Residents at Work Inc., monthly meetings and plans to share the ideas.
Local motivational speaker and financial planner, Vicki Manibusan agreed that the program is a good one.
She envisions incorporating what she learned into her speeches. She also wants to be a wealth coach for Georgia Saves, she said.
The meeting ended with Ogden encouraging all present to join the program, sign the form to become savers and carry the information back to the companies they represented.
Hutto signed a saver card and is committed to do what it takes to become a wealth coach.
She has also figured out where savings can come from: "I can curtail the shopping and the buying of sodas," she said.
Primary Press Contact
The Consumer Federation of America
Attn: America Saves Campaign
1620 Eye St NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
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