Tag Archives: poor people

Financial counselor helps low-income move out of poverty

There’s a truism that says, “It’s expensive to be poor,” said Sandra Suarez, who helps low-income families move out of poverty. As part of her role as a financial counselor at Compass Working Capital, a Boston-based non-profit, she helps break the generational cycle of poverty by helping build savings, repair credit, and achieve financial goals. Suarez, who grew up on welfare, said that the disenfranchised are more susceptible to unfair or deceptive practices such as check cashing services, payday loans and other lending methods that prey on poor people.

The only thing I knew about money while growing up was that my family didn’t have enough of it. My mom was a single parent who lived off small welfare checks in subsidized housing. I wanted a better future, so I became the first person in my family to attend college. But I was still struggling financially, so I took a financial coaching program through Compass Working Capital. I found out how to save money, improve my credit score, increase my wages and even was able to eventually buy a house. Having been in my clients’ shoes, I am in a unique role that allows me to understand the challenges low-income families face and how to help them navigate their way out of poverty.

It’s usually because of lack of know-how and lacking the right financial skills.
Finances are taught at home, and for low-income families, this isn’t a priority. It becomes a vicious cycle – people are just thinking about getting by month-to-month. It becomes a matter of “Do I pay the gas or groceries this week?” They’re not thinking about “What’s the interest on my credit card?” or “Should I be saving at a different bank?” These bad habits and lack of knowledge is passed on.

Some recipients of food stamps or housing vouchers think they can’t have any savings. So they literally put money under the mattress; in a jar or coat pocket; ask another family member to hold it, or send it to their country. But eligibility for the housing voucher, for example, might only take into consideration the interest earned during the year, and not the amount of actual savings. I also show people how little interest is actually earned while savings can build, and also how it might be worth paying some income-based rent because of the value of having the housing itself.

Yes, people have big dreams or aspirations such as “making a lot of money” but they don’t know how to achieve these goals. I tell them to think “SMART”: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Target Date. For example, if a goal is to start saving money towards homeownership, a small, actionable and measurable step is to open a savings account and have $25 dollars or some other amount automatically withdrawn from your paycheck.

Low-income people might be using check-cashing services, where a high percentage taken out to cash each check. Or perhaps they’re renting-to-own, which ends up costing three to five times more than an item is worth because of interest and charges. Or they might be late paying their credit card bill – and interest hikes up if you’re even just late one time in payment. Finally, someone might be struggling to get by, but still have internet, cable, and a cell phone – and still eating out. I show them how all these expenses add up.

No, because after contributing your set amount to everyone else in the “circle,” often by the time it’s your turn to get the money, the other lenders often disappeared or defaulted. Many of our clients are Latino, and lending circles were a common practice between Dominican Latinos, but it’s of course it’s better for money to be banked with a reputable lender.

With the entire country spreading out from West Coast to East … this is the best you could do, Show? Really? As a resort town, AC is like Vegas had a quickie wedding with a tired, run-down beach town who’d had one too many, way before the ceremony was even in the works. What’s next on this glamorous around-the-world trip? Peckham in London? Wait. Did you guys consult Bachelor Sean on this one? Because that would explain a lot. “Yeah, I was thinking it would tell me a lot about the women to see how they responded to being accosted and mugged in between losing a lot of money shooting craps and drinking too much.” That must be it.

Other Single Dad Brad gets the call. And I kind of loved the editors for showing all the guys in the house talking about how they like the guy, but he’s way too reserved for Des. While he’s all “let’s do the scary rides on the boardwalk!” and they’re screaming and laughing. Heh. I do like that Des’ dates stay pretty down-to-earth and normal. Ride some rides, get some saltwater taffy, “discover” the pre-determined chocolate-covered pretzel factory and pig out. And then we’re back with the Despondent Dozen who are left behind, watching the events unfold 44 floors down on the pier below that is right in plain view of their window. (Coincidence? Oh, I think not.) Though how they are making out details from that high up without binocs, I have no idea. (Ha! I mention this to my son as he strolls through the room, and he says, “Well, I’m guessing they’re tracking the camera crew. They’re kind of hard to miss.” He so smart.) Naked Zak is downright depressed when he spies the happy couple on the merry-go-round. “Things happen on the merry-go-round,” he says in disgust. That they do, Naked Zak. That … they do.

After a walk on the beach, it’s time for dinner, and while Des is attracted to Brad on multiple levels and has a lot of respect for him as a man and a young dad, she doesn’t quite know where she fits in with what he’s looking for. And he’s not exactly an easy conversationalist. So … it’s tricky. I do think there is a possible good connection that could grow with time between these two, but in this warp-speed setup, I seriously doubt Brad will be able to make the quantum leap in the time he’d need to, to make her feel comfortable keeping him away from his son. So, if he doesn’t get cut loose from this date, I still think he’s not making it much further. Also — I like that the guys have enough respect for Des to know that she wouldn’t keep him around and away from his son if she didn’t feel there was a solid chance. I think she has more solid ground elsewhere already to keep him hanging. And …