Gadsden Will Learn the Value Of Saving
Gadsden Will Learn the Value Of Saving
July 17, 2001
by Juana Jordan
For years, Gadsden County has been one of Florida's poorest counties. In 1990, at least a quarter of its residents were living below the poverty line. Many of them still do.
But a $200,000 grant from the Consumer Federation of America may help improve the living standards of scores of poor families in Gadsden County and around the country. On Monday, the Washington-based nonprofit association of 285 pro-consumer groups announced plans to direct part of the grant to Gadsden County to promote savings among county residents.
The America Saves program targets low- to moderate-income consumers, to help them achieve wealth. It suggests consumers practice a number of savings techniques, including saving toward the down payment for a home so they can build equity. Consumers also are encouraged to shop for the best interest rates and participate in company retirement plans.
Between $10,000 and $20,000 will be devoted to Gadsden County over a two-year period.
"We're going to call it Gadsden Saves," said Walt Dartland, a Tallahassee resident who serves on the CFA's national board and is heading up this effort. "We want to help these people save and have them sign pledge cards to save a certain amount and get themselves out of debt. Because we know when we teach people how to save money, they become empowered. Once they establish their savings, they'll see that $1,000, that $5,000, and they'll feel good about themselves. They'll buy homes, save for their children's college education."
Last year, the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for Financial Education funded a similar campaign in Cleveland. The goal was to increase the value Clevelanders place on savings and building wealth. More than 100 people working in government, business and the nonprofit sector lent their support. They developed services for savers, including motivational workshops, one-on-one coaching, free financial planning workshops and savings clubs.
CFA officials said the Cleveland campaign drew an estimated 500 participants who agreed to work toward a savings goal and thousands of others who participated in the numerous workshops.
Dartland sees that happening in Gadsden, which is the only rural area awarded funding. Other areas include Kansas City, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Indianapolis.
"This would be a real challenge for Gadsden," said Dartland, who also solicited help from North Florida Legal Services, the agency that will oversee the program locally. Fringe Benefits Management Company, which administers employee benefit plans for employers throughout the United States, also will assist in the effort.
"It's tremendous the amount of pessimism people have of their own wealth-building (ability)," said Steve Brobeck, CFA executive director. "What we've found is that people know they ought to save but don't have any idea about the power of compounding. It's a savings habit we're trying to create. If people start saving, they will be encouraged to do it more. The activity will be social. We're not telling people to rip up their credit cards or anything like that. We just want to take some of that money and put it away."
There are benefits for doing so.
Brobeck said some banks have even waived their fees, offering consumers no-fee savings accounts.
Gadsden Saves is still in its early stages. Dartland said it will take about six to eight months before the program gets off the ground. He's now trying to get government and business leaders involved.
"We're even trying to develop auxiliary services to help people make purchases, such as car purchases, and teach them how to get the right product at the right price," Dartland said. "We're excited about it."
For more information about "Gadsden Saves" and how you can participate, call Pat Underwood at North Florida Legal Services at 385-9007, ext. 22.
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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