Jump-Starting a Financial Makeover

September 5, 2013
By: Sara Cooper, America Saves Project Director

Nichelle Johnson, a single mom with two teenage children, knows what it’s like to stretch a dollar.When she moved back to Virginia Beach in 2008, she provided for her family with just a part-time library position. Jobs were hard to find,and she was grateful for the work. When she heard about the Virginia Beach Mayor’s Action Challenge for 500 Families Financially Fit for the Future, she thought it was a great way to jumpstart her financial makeover. By attending 10 monthly classes and meeting with her personal financial coach, she was able to create a financial plan to see her children through college without debt and to complete her own degree in the future. During the first class, which focused on the importance of having goals and establishing savings, Johnson signed up for Virginia Saves, making a commitment to saving and gaining the encouragement America Saves offers to develop new saving habits.

One of the components of the financial challenge was to establish an emergency fund of at least $300. Johnson said that when she began the challenge, saving was hard, and there was almost no money available to save. After joining Virginia Saves she reported that saving had become a priority, and she began saving automatically each payday.

Johnson credits her personal financial coach, Bridgette Calloway at her local credit union, with keeping her on track toward her goals and encouraging her when decisions were difficult. “She continues to reach out to me and make sure that I am doing OK,” said Johnson. Her coach encouraged her as she implemented the steps to financial fitness and began to see results from her efforts. Johnson was the first to complete the Mayor’s Action Challenge for 500 Families Financially Fit for the Future. In this challenge she established emergency savings, increased her credit score, reduced her debt, and is growing her long-term savings. Johnson admits that the challenge is not always easy and change doesn’t happen overnight. She reports, “I have not completed my goals,but I am on my way and making good progress.”

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