Expand your financial knowledge at workshops


Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 2:52 p.m.
Begin 2006 by being in control of your finances by taking part of financial literacy workshops offered by the Heart of Florida Prosperity Campaign.
To better serve those having tax preparation done by the Heart of Florida Prosperity Campaign, the organization is offering financial literacy education workshops to encourage recipients to invest their tax refunds wisely. The workshops are also availble to groups that request them.
There are 19 workshops dealing with financial empowerment that range from helping individuals with improving their credit, managing a budget, investing, to helping with other financial areas such as improving credit scores and guarding against identity theft. The workshops are ongoing after the tax season is over.
The program is targeting different age groups.
Performing these workshops are 13 consultants who specialize in areas such as law, insurance, credit services and financial educational services.
Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, chairman of the Florida Literacy Education subcommittee, said "We want to educate participants about financial issues, making important purchases, and making good use of money received from tax returns."
Cole-Smith said the workshop topics they chose were because of suggestions they heard mentioned frequently when asking the community the types of services they would like offered. The subcommittee then began brainstorming ideas for workshops that would most benefit those being served in the tax-preparation program.
To participate in any of the workshops, the group asks that community members request them for their church, group, or organization and have a minimum of 10 people signed up for a selected workshop.
"We're asking that the community contact us. Once they show a commitment, then our consultants go out," Cole-Smith said.
For single parents there are workshops on areas such as making wise financial decisions for themselves and their children, financial planning, savings and investing.
"With single parents, they sometimes become overwhelmed just making it day to day. We help them learn to live within a budget and to maximize what they have. We want to convince them they can do more than just pay bills, but they have the potential to maximize their earnings," Cole-Smith said.
Michelle Sherfield, volunteer trainer coordinator, said the aim is to change their participants' frame of mind of just paying bills. They want to show them how to live off what they're making and use their tax refund toward something that will benefit them in the long run.
For senior citizens, there are workshops that will assist them with preparing documents associated with wills, estates, long-term health care and avoiding investment fraud.
"Often seniors are on limited incomes and many of them are taking care of grandchildren and qualify for earned income tax credits. They also have not been exposed to technology that makes them aware of identity theft. They have become a target for it because they have good credit and don't realize how important it is to check their credit reports," said Sherfield.
There also are workshops for middle and high school students such as, Living Large: How to Budget and Manage Your Money, Buy Now, Pay Later: Credit Cards, and How Education Determines Income.
Cole-Smith said, "With youth, early intervention is the key. The sooner they can grow up and make money of their own and make sound decisions that determine how they use their money, they won't make mistakes as adults. Many times no one has sat down to talk with young people about money."
Students at Oasis Enrichment Academy, a charter school located in east Gainesville, have been taking advantage of these financial literacy workshops.
Two students, Zefnia Durham, 14, and Jahmere Webb, 13, said they have learned a lot from the workshops. The two seventh-graders also said what they learned is making an impact on their spending habits.
Jahmere said he feels the classes offer good ideas to be successful in life and teaches students not to spend every dime they receive.
The workshops were given by Dr. G.W. Mingo, a financial services representative with the Heart of Florida Prosperity Campaign.
Jahmere said, "The workshops showed we can make it in the world too through good saving habits. Dr. Mingo told us to hold on to our money and we can double it. We learned what you do now affects you later."
He continued, "You have to start at a young age to be the next Bill Gates or a multimillionaire. To be successful in life I have to make goals now."
Jahmere has shared information he has learned with his sister and has talked with his mother about opening a savings account.
Zefnia added, "Kids spend money on foolishness. If your parents leave you with nothing behind, you have to count on yourself and build yourself up."
Zefnia, with the help of his grandfather, is already looking to invest his savings as soon as he is old enough.
"Parents should look at the information that we have been given. It's not enough to think just about your children, but about your grandchildren. You have to plan for their future, for their education because everyone doesn't get athletic scholarships," Zefnia continued.
Although the Heart of Florida Prosperity Campaign workshops is targeting middle and high school students, single parents and senior citizens, Cole-Smith said they want to help everyone, but consider these groups priority.
To contact the Heart of Florida Prosperity Campaign about workshops, call Cole-Smith at (352) 395-5767.

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