For a few hours each month, Jill Harris taps away at her keyboard, summarizing key personal finance concepts into short blurbs that are sent to almost 100 email inboxes twice each week.
After reading a personal finance blog about delivering complex information to individuals, Harris was inspired last year to share financial literacy information with current Family Promise clients and graduates. The semi-retired tax accountant liked the idea of families receiving financial tips that are short, timely, and easy to understand.
“Financial wellness is critical to a family’s overall wellbeing,” said Harris, a Union County resident who has been volunteering with Family Promise since 2013. “A solid understanding of personal finance principles can help families achieve housing independence and feel a sense of confidence that they can maintain it.”
The “Financial Literacy Bites” are adapted from New Beginnings, a financial literacy curriculum created through a partnership between Family Promise and Woodforest National Bank. New Beginnings is uniquely tailored to low-income families and provides a comprehensive approach to achieving financial sustainability. Harris also customizes some email newsletters with “special bites” to fit present situations like tax season.
Emails from January included helpful information about free tax filing software for low-income families and different state requirements for taxing unemployment benefits. From tips on creating a budget or how to watch out for predatory loans, there is something for everyone.
Families are encouraged to create a flexible budget and pay any outstanding debt when possible. They also receive information about how credit works and tips to improve their credit score.
“A credit score is an important part of a person’s financial picture,” said Harris. “It determines things like loan eligibility and worthiness as a housing tenant.”
Often, families are denied housing due to a low credit score and poor credit history.
Housing insecure families were acutely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic shutdown. With federal eviction protections ending March 31, the financial tips Family Promise of Union County provides empower families to take small steps and try to prepare.
In the future, Union County hopes to offer virtual sessions and train case management staff who can work with families directly on their path to financial health and housing independence.
“Most people expend their savings once they become homeless,” said Amy Jones, manager of volunteer engagement. “The financial bites are meant to help families make the most of their budget. We want people to be able to get to a place where they have savings for a rainy day.”
For more information on how to volunteer and get involved, contact Amy Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.