The Recorder – In the midst of a pandemic-hit economy, a specialist shares his financial know-how

Published: 2022-12-16 16:31:48

Modified: 2022-12-16 16:29:10

TURNERS FALLS – With the economy still feeling the ill effects of the pandemic, money is now more important than ever for some folks trying to stay afloat. Community Action Pioneer Valley and The Brick House Community Resource Center relieved stress Thursday by providing financial advice to a small group of locals in a cafe-like setting.

“I truly believe that we all have knowledge … so I hope this will be a conversation where we all bring our knowledge and expertise,” said Sarah Lambert, a specialist in Community Action’s Money Matters program , which offers free financial planning advice to eligible low-income residents.

Participants at Thursday’s joint briefing, all armed with pens and paper, were honest about their reasons for attending.

“I feel like I just spend and spend and I don’t know where I’m going,” said Vanessa Dautruche, a Greenfield resident. “I just want to save.”

“Like reading and writing, money matters,” said Kerlie Gedeon, a Turners Falls resident. “Especially. So I want to continue my education.”

As participants ate fruit and pastries and sipped coffee and tea, Lambert explained that the Money Matters program touches on three “key pillars” of personal finance: credit, budgeting, and financial products/debt.

An early topic of discussion concerned tax credits. Lambert presented a chart showing maximum loan amounts for different demographics. Beginning with the 2020 tax year, individuals between the ages of 25 and 65 without children have a maximum of $560. People of all ages have a maximum of $3,733 with one child, $6,164 with two children, and $6,935 with three or more children. Gedeon identified a gap in the data where people under the age of 25 living alone are not eligible and said it was “staggering” that younger people, who were just starting out, were being ignored.

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“The answer to that is, ‘It just is,'” Lambert said. “I’m sure someone somewhere in some office has put a lot of thought into why it is the way it is, but to us it looks kind of arbitrary.”

The group later moved on to talking about loans.

“This is your gateway to money and doing what you want to do,” Gedeon said after Lambert asked the group to share what they already knew about credit.

“Once it’s gone down,” Dautruche said of a credit score, “it’s hard to get it back up.”

Lambert’s presentation described credit as “the ability to buy now, pay later.” It outlined common types of credit, such as credit cards, car loans, student loans, and mortgages. These offer “spending flexibility,” and the history “can be used by banks, utilities and landlords to determine your trustworthiness,” the slideshow continued. An important note from Lambert is that Massachusetts employers cannot legally conduct a credit check that has not been disclosed during the hiring process, nor can they use that credit check as a reason for rejecting a job application.

Toward the end of the session, Lambert encouraged attendees to pick up some of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s reference books that had been provided. Books on debt, bills, budgeting, and loans lay on the table.

“Whatever feels most relevant to you, whatever goals you want to work on, I would encourage you to pick up a book and sort of flip through it to see what looks helpful and identify some next steps after today’s workshop ‘ Lambert told the group.

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For more information about Community Action’s Money Matters program, visit communityaction.us/money.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or [email protected]

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