Learn how to get finances in order


Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.

Are you tired of worrying about your finances while struggling to make ends meet?

Facts

FINANCIAL FITNESS

* What: Financial Fitness, the first phase of “Bridges to Prosperity”

* When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays, July 9, July 16, July 23 and July 30

* Where: Catholic Charities, 1701 NE 9th St.

* Information: Call 352-372-0294 or email jdixon@catholiccharitiesgainesville.

If so, then you may want to participate in the free Financial Fitness series, the first phase of "Bridges to Prosperity," a three-phase program to help families save money and reach financial stability and prosperity.

The Rev. James Dixon Jr., coordinator of Bridges to Prosperity, said there are no requirements to participate and no age restrictions, only the commitment and dedication to reach your financial goals. "This program provides all the tools they need to become financially stable." Dixon said. "The only requirement is a determination to better your life and improve yourself personally and professionally,"

The next Financial Fitness classes will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning July 9, and also July 16, July 23 and July 30 at Catholic Charities at 1701 NE 9th St. Bridges to Prosperity is sponsored by Catholic Charities. Child care is provided upon request and dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. before each class.

Dixon said participants in the Financial Fitness phase will learn how to find extra dollars each month to save, create a spending plan and avoid falling into money and credit traps.

Financial Fitness participants who are income eligible also will have an opportunity to open an Individual Development Account, a dollar-for-dollar matched savings account that can be used for reliable transportation, better housing, education or owning a business.

Gainesville resident Rebecca J. Hightower has taken all three phases of Bridges to Prosperity and is working with an ally to continue working on her goals.

"I have reached several of my goals," Hightower said. "I've learned to manage my credit and I'm working on saving."

Hightower said the program has given her the tools to become more independent. She moved out from living with her children and into public housing, is more involved in the community, attends city meetings to let her voice be heard and is a member of the Gainesville Housing Authority Board of Directors.

Hightower has written a book and her next goal is to have the book published.

"I recommend this program," Hightower said. "It has really helped me."

Once the Financial Fitness series is completed, participants can take part in Phase 2, which is "Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By World," a 15-week series of personal development, planning and resource building workshops held from 6-8 p.m. Mondays, also at Catholic Charities. Dixon said the next Phase 2 class will start sometime in August, a couple of weeks after Financial Fitness is completed to give participants a break.

Dixon said those who participate in the Financial Fitness series can continue to have their savings matched in an Individual Development Account even if they don't sign up for Phase 2. However, Dixon said those who take all three phases of Bridges to Prosperity will benefit the most.

"You don't have to take the other classes, but those that do have a higher success rate," Dixon said.

During Phase 2, Dixon said participants will dig deeper into the causes of poverty and how it impacts their lives. He said participants will acquire life skills to help them get ahead and also will map their own journey toward economic and career stability.

"Once you understand your situation, then you can see a way out of it," said Dixon, adding that Getting Ahead graduates then can advance to Phase 3, called "Circles to Prosper," which also is held from 6-8 p.m. on Mondays at Catholic Charities. Circles to Prosper participants are matched with an "ally" to assist and support them to put their plan into action to achieve their economic and career goals.

Dixon emphasized the person who works with the participant is called an "ally" and not a "mentor" because the idea is to provide support, not tell the participant what to do.

Since its inception in January 2012, Dixon said about 300 people have participated in the program.

"If they commit themselves to realizing their financial, professional and personal goals," Dixon said, "they will achieve success."

Robert Yancey of Gainesville currently is taking the Financial Fitness classes and is already seeing an improvement in his financial situation. Before Financial Fitness, Yancey said he didn't keep track of his expenses and didn't even balance his checkbook. Now, he keeps track and watches his expenditures.

"I saw where we were spending a lot on eating out," Yancey said. "We (his family of five) eat out a lot."

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