Common Cents

by Rise Foundation, Inc.
Vetted

RISE provides the Common Cents (financial literacy) class to residence of Shelby County, who want to improve their financial health.  Most of them are low to moderate income individuals, who are initially reluctant to share the “real deal” about their financial condition.  Once in the class, and meet others in similar situations, the “flood gate” of sharing begins.   

For example, Linda talked about being in an abusive situation, and the abuser would not allow her to be involved in any of the financial transaction of the household.  Through counseling and the help of her family, she was able to get out of the situation but then was left with bills in her name that the abuser stopped paying.  Without his income, she was in a terrible predicament.   Linda shared how she was able to learn in the Common Cents class about developing a spending plan and comparing it to the amount of money that she was earning.   When they didn’t match, she looked at ways of aligning them, one of which was contacting the creditors to make payment arrangements. Linda now shares with others how she was able to reduce stress in her life as a result of taking control of her situation – both emotionally and financially.

Then there’s Latasha, who took the class in an effort to start building her credit to purchase a home for her family.  She knew she wanted a home but wasn’t sure about how to get ready financially to take on a loan.  Through the Common Cents class, Latasha learned about the importance of reviewing your credit report at least once each year. When she reviewed her report, there were items that she knew nothing about on the report.   Rather than paying someone to correct the report, she was able to write the credit bureau to challenge the entries and they were removed. She was happy to see her credit score increase!

At the end of the class, the facilitator gives certificates to each participant and photographs are taken highlighting that they have the skills and tools to make sound financial decisions.  Most of them share this information with their families, co-workers and others they know.  RISE encourages Common Cents participants to share what they have learned in order to expand the reach of RISE to others in the community.  That’s what RISE is all about – helping individuals/families to help themselves, with the expectation that the information will cascade to others in their network of family and friends.  

Ms. Verna
Ms. Verna

Ms. Verna maybe well over the age of 65 but she knows the importance of continuing to set financial goals and watching where your money goes. She attributes this to why she is able to keep a smile on her face and to live life. Ms. Verna talks about the instances where she has had some of her checks stolen from the mail box in front of the post office and then, somehow re-written to others for cash.  She feels extremely fortunate to have tellers at her bank, who double check things when people they don’t know enter the bank to cash checks on other folks accounts.  This saved her the possible loss of over $500.00 which could have been devastating for her to go through all of the process to get her money back.

Ms. Verna shares with others the importance of going through programs at RISE like ‘Common Cents’, to help them see the importance of using traditional banks and keeping up with their balances as well as reconciling their bank account on a monthly basis.  She has talked to others who experienced the same fraudulent activity with money orders and cash transactions and some of them never recovered their money.  According toMs. Verna, this can be a major set-back for someone on a fixed income, who already has trouble making ends meet any way.

So what does Ms. Verna do now?  Well she keeps a brochure in her purse to tell others about RISE and the ‘Common Cents’ program.  She also tells them that no matter what your age maybe, that setting aside a certain amount each month for savings is something that everyone should continue to do.  If you aren’t worried about emergency household expenses because of your residentially living arrangements, then everyone should be saving for a vacation, giving to their church/charities  and perhaps a little for the unexpected needs relating to the education of their grandchildren.  She feels that everyone should go through a course like ‘Common Cents’ because common cents is still important for everyone to have , especially when it comes to financial security.

Your contribution to RISE that will support the Common Cents program, will allow others like Ms. Verna to have more joy in their life without having the stress of worrying about how they will pay needed expenses.  As a matter of fact “Common Cents is a good Rx (prescription) with good side effects – peace of mind, possible joy and a little happiness”, according to Ms. Verna! 

LaTonya
LaTonya

As we end 2015 and plan to begin 2016, you can see how eagerly the RISE Common Cents participants are learning new skills and techniques that help them begin a habit of saving for emergencies and for the future every day.  Even though most of the individuals who attend the Common Cents Classes are from low income working families - one thing they all have in common is the desire to make better choices with the financial resources they have. 

Why do these folks come to RISE?  Either their employer has made this class possible for them to attend, or they have meet someone who has gone through the class; and seen firsthand how good money management skills can make a difference - the difference in how they are able to meet their family’s need.  Like LaTonya who is pictured here with a glowing smile.  She doesn’t earn a great deal to support herself and four children, but her co-workers constantly ask her, “How are you able to provide the things that you do for you family when you make less than we do?”  Her response is always, “I have learned through the RISE Foundation, how to comparison shop, use coupons, keep a monthly spending plan and always set aside money each month that goes into my savings account.”  LaTonya has become a walking advertisement for RISE.  She demonstrates how Common Cents has helped her save, purchase a home, car and a family computer, that both she and her children use.

In the Common Cents class, information is shared with participants not only on how to develop spending plans but how credit scores determine the cost of goods and services that they buy over time.  When class participants actually see how credit scores are determined, they are surprised to see that it does not include the amount of money that you earn – it focuses mostly on how well you manage your money, and credit card usage.  They are simply amazed that they can have a credit score of over 700 with their entry level wages, if they use the money management skills learned in the class.

One day the RISE Foundation, has a vision that everyone in the community will have the opportunity to participate in facilitated classes that will bring money management skills to everyone in the Mid-South area.  We have the waiting list, so we have people who want to move forward like LaTonya. Through your contributions and the contributions of others, RISE can make this vision a reality. Please help us today!

A Common Cents Smile
A Common Cents Smile

As in most urban communities, Memphis and Shelby County has its share of families not able to provide for the basic needs of their families.  With one of the highest poverty rates in the country (28+ %) RISE has concentrated on helping families with tools and techniques that can maximized their income while minimizing their expenditures.  Individuals who come to the Common Cents classes always ask, "How is that possible, when I don't have enough income to meet my needs?"

Well, the next discussion involves the difference between a want and a need.  Too often families have succumbed to the desires of their heart by purchasing items that exceed their value because it is the "stylish" thing to do.  For example, does a growing teenager really need to have a tennis shoe that cost $250.00 but will be too little to wear before the end of the school year?  Are those shoes really a "need" or a "want"?  This may be a simple question to most people but far too often families, in an effort to satisfy their children's desires, aren't sitting down with them to clearly explain the impact of these type of purchases on the family’s financial well-being.

Well that's not the case for Ms. Brooks and her family since she has gone through the Common Cents program and learned not only how to develop a spending plan, but how to pay off high interest credit cards and positives of cash only transactions.  This has actually helped the Brooks family have more money available to the family for their basic needs, to save, and have a special family activity each month.

Now that the Brooks children are involved in spending plan decisions, the children are also learning sound money management tips that they will have for the rest of their lives.  You see, it's all about a little common sense that all came from the RISE Common Cents class.

In an effort to bring this facilitated training to more families in the community, RISE plans to conduct training classes for other nonprofit organizations so that “Common Cents” can become contagious.  The more people who use it and share it with others, the reach of RISE will spread like "wild fire", with more smiling faces like Ms. Brooks.  Your support has, and will make this happen.  RISE appreciates every dollar that comes to support families to make better financial choises. Who knows, your support might just help reduce the rate of poverty in this community or at least for one family.

Common Cents Class
Common Cents Class

To all of the supporters of the RISE Common Cents Program,

When I look at this class picture, I remember what life was like for me when I first came to RISE.  I cashed my check at the corner check cashing place in my neighborhood because I thought that banks were for people who had a lot of money.  So paying $8.00 a week to cash my check was something that I, along with all of the people that I knew, did without a second thought.

When I got my check, I always paid my rent and then my utilities.  Since my four children needed to have a little fun, I always either took them roller skating or at least out to McDonalds for a nice meal.  By the time I paid for these extras, $50.00 easily left my purse.  Of course, I needed to buy food for the week and by the time I finished grocery shopping, my funds were in a negative state.  I always tried to keep a credit card but when it reached the limit, it was always embarrassing to have your purchases rejected. If my kids were with me, it felt even worse.  I cried inside when they held their heads down and looked to see if anyone they knew was nearby.

When I had enough of barely living paycheck to paycheck, I decided that I needed to do better.  A friend of mine had gone through the Common Cents program and she always talked about how it helped her to not only pay her bills but to start a savings account for emergencies.  So I went to RISE and I clearly remembered being seated in the chairs around tables with other who were learning how they could make better choices with their pay checks. 

The instructor talked to us about short term and long term goals.  This allowed me to dream a little.  I wanted to be debt free first and then try saving for a better place for me and my kids to live.  So my goal was to become debt free and RISE helped me with putting together a plan to reach this goal.  I am proud to say that now three years later, I am not only debt free, but have a checking and savings account  with a job that pays more. RISE helped me to understand that using banks will actually save me money and it’s a safe place for my money to be kept.  One day I want to purchase a home - in a good neighborhood with good schools, but I know it takes time. With my plan – I know I can do it!

Thanks to RISE and the Common Cents trainers, things are really looking up for me.

Karen B.

A Common Cents Class Participant who is still learning

 

With your support RISE can reach more families like Ms. B, who is pictured in this classroom.  We may not be able to actually provide better jobs to those we touch, but we can help them to make better financial choices with the resources they have.

 

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Organization Information

Rise Foundation, Inc.

Location: Memphis, TN - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.risememphis.org/​
Project Leader:
Linda Williams
Memphis, Tennessee United States

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