Tennessee leads the nation when it comes to personal bankruptcies.
And things are tough all over: US households racked up more the $57 billion of new credit card debt last year, Americans owe more than $1.2 trillion on student loans and 40 percent of Americans tell pollsters they would have trouble coming up with $2,000 in an emergency.
But you can buck the trend of being broke, according to the leader of a local organization that will participate Saturday in Chattanoogas second annual Money School, a free financial education day open to the public at Brainerd Crossroads.
Any person can save money, regardless of their income, said June Puett, who runs the Chattanooga Chapter of Tennessee Saves, the local offshoot of America Saves, a Consumer Federation of America campaign to help individuals save money, reduce debt and build wealth.
Cooking at home instead of eating out is one way a family can save thousands of dollars a year, said Puett, who works at the University of Tennessee Extension Service office in Chattanooga, which offers a free cast-iron cooking class so would-be savers can rediscover grandmas cooking secrets.
Such money-saving skills, strategies and advice will be front and center Saturday, when 20 organizations take part in Money School, an event put on by the nonprofit organization Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE). Speakers and exhibitors will offer hands-on learning opportunities regarding money management, debt elimination, increased savings, as well as retirement and estate planning.
I absolutely believe that people can climb out of a financial mess, said Jennifer Harper, a Chattanooga certified financial planner who founded Common Cents Financial Literacy, a nonprofit education program for 16- to 22-year-olds that will have a booth at Money School. The city of Chattanooga has a higher poverty rate than the national average. But income isnt the only thing that causes people to make bad financial decisions.
Parking lot attendant saves $500,000
Part of Common Cents curriculum is a video of a Baltimore man who never made more than $12 an hour while working 44 years as a parking lot attendant yet was able to pay off his home, send his three children to Catholic school and parlay the dollars he saved here and there into an investment portfolio worth $500,000.
Ive worked in the private wealth management world for a while now, and Ive had clients that made a lot of money but were always broke because they didnt make good financial decisions, said Harper, who also will have a booth Saturday for her business, Bridge Financial Planning.
The Money Schools workshops will focus on four crucial financial areas: Making informed financial choices, financing your future, managing financial products and money skills for teens and tweens.
Five panel discussions will target financial issues facing baby boomers, gen Xers, millennials, homeowners and entrepreneurs. Attendees may register in advance to obtain free tax preparation, credit report analysis, mortgage assessments and one-on-one personal finance advice.
People can change their finances, said Jennifer Holder, communications and special projects manager for CNE. They just need the tools and resources to do so.
About 150 people came to last years Money School, Holder said, and a survey found 95 percent of respondents said they were more knowledgeable about financial products and felt more confident in knowing the steps to achieve financial security. In addition, 75 percent of respondents set new financial goals, she said, such as paying off their credit cards, school or other debts, diversifying investments and making plans for retirement, their estate and long-term care.
Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises mission is to create economically diverse neighborhoods filled with financially empowered citizens and housing for all. CNE was organized by US Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. three decades ago. CNEs programs include homebuyer education and counseling, home improvement loans, affordable mortgage products, foreclosure prevention services and affordable homes for sale and rent.
Since its inception, CNE says it has invested in more than 14,000 families, individuals and small businesses.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsFor Business or twitter.com/meetfor business or 423-757-6651.