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Credit Education Program Reaches Over 30,000 People

[Sunday, October 26th, 2014]

In its first year, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC)helped more than 30,000 people take control of their debts and move toward their goals of financial success and stability.

In September 2013, the NFCC launched Sharpen Your Financial Focus, in partnership with Bank of America, Chase, Synchrony Financial and Wells Fargo. The program was designed to reach consumers in financial distress and give them resources to begin to deal with debts, learn financially sound practices, and improve their financial situations.

The program operates in three steps: a financial “stress test,” called “My Money Checkup,” to assess where people are in their financial lives, a review with an NFCC-approved financial professional, and an educational plan specially designed for their circumstances.

Average participants were single women

NFCC data showed that the average Sharpen Your Financial Focus client was an unmarried, white female in her forties. Most of them came from small households, and about two-thirds of them had some education beyond high school.

The common denominator for all the program participants was that they were in some level of financial distress. Many of them had no savings, and their debts outweighed their assets. The average person in the program was trying to pay down debt, could not regularly contribute to savings, and did not make or stick to budgets.

Retirement savings and income were main concerns

Many of the participants in the program did not have retirement savings sufficient to allow them to stop working at regular retirement age, and some had no retirement savings at all.

Others had seen their income decline, usually because of job loss. Sixty-nine percent of participants reported that reduced income was driving their financial distress. Another 30% said that their expenses were up because of medical debts or high interest rates.

Program effectiveness

Initial surveys showed that two-thirds of participating households said that the program had helped them manage their money more effectively. Two-thirds also said that they felt more confident about their finances, and their ability to set goals around their money. And almost 75% said they were making payments on debts in a more consistent manner since completing the program.

The senior director of financial education programs at the NFCC, Rhonda Ashburn, said that the program had a successful first year. “Personal finance can be challenging, particularly if life has presented you with a financial curve ball,” said Ashburn.

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