Single mom goes from living in the projects to managing them

Category: Basic Money Management
Published: Friday, 03 April 2015
Written by Admin

By JESSICA BLISS, The Tennessean

NASHVILLE, Tenn. There is a sense of stillness, of serenity, in the painting suspended on Alishia Marshalls office wall.

The subjects head is bowed, her eyes closed. Rosary beads weave between her interlaced fingers as she reflects.

The symbolism resonates every time Marshall lifts her own dark eyes from the computer screen at her desk and looks out the window toward the residences on the other side of the street.

Around here you have households in your hands, says Marshall, property manager at J. Henry Hale Apartments. You pray you make the right decision.

Fifteen years ago, Marshall made a personal decision.

She moved with her infant son into Vine Hill Apartments, one of the more than a dozen family public housing properties run by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.

A single, working mother and college student, she set herself a hard path. She faced a few setbacks -- being kicked out of a program designed to help get her on her feet, not getting several jobs for which she applied, and more. But she persisted, and now the former public housing resident helps manage properties like the one where she once lived -- and helps her residents look beyond their location in life.

In 2000, Marshall worked full time as a Kroger accountant while studying criminal justice, psychology and accounting at Tennessee State University.

When she became pregnant, it probably would have been easier to move out of the college dorms and back home. But with a baby boy in her care, she sought independence.

I wanted to feel like a mother, she says.

So she enrolled in Christian Community Services Inc.s Mentoring Towards Independence program. Housed in the Vine Hill Community Center, the program helps low-income families reduce their dependence on government subsidies through weekly financial courses on asset management and budgeting, a $2 to $1 match savings program of up to $5,000 and one-on-one mentorships.

While parents study, program staff members provide the residents children with homework tutoring, career exploration workshops and a course on basic money management. And they feed them dinner. In Marshalls case, it was much-needed child care.

The programs promise was opportunity, but it required commitment.

Imagine trying to balance school, a full-time job and a small son while also attending an additional night class with strict attendance demands. I cant. What if your child gets sick, or its exam week, or theres a work emergency? So many in our community -- particularly the low-income single parents among us -- struggle with these realities.

Accountability is key, yes. Thats why standards are set. And, yes, not everyone cares to live up to those standards. Some want handouts and an easy road to security (a road that doesnt actually exist).

But even for those who try to do everything right, life is unpredictable and sometimes it presents an underhanded hurdle.

The balancing act proved too much for Marshall, and she was released from the program for missing too many classes.

The situation frustrated her.

Basically removing me from the program taught me about rules and regulations, she says, her manicured fingers pushing back her dark locks as she remembered her then still-maturing self. There is no pass in life.

But that truth didnt deter her.

Instead, she continued working on the program objectives on her own. Pushed by Vine Hills social services coordinator, Delores Hockett, a woman whose job it was to support the residents long-term goals, Marshall set a household budget. She saved. And when she re-enrolled in the Mentoring Towards Independence program a year later, she was better prepared to achieve its goals.

Marshall began contributing to the match savings program and considering mortgage interest rates. She completed the program, earned two bachelors degrees and purchased a home for herself and her son in 2006 in Smyrna.

But she didnt walk away from her former life, where her Vine Hill neighbors had become like family, calling her at work when she had a package on her porch and cooking out together.

Marshall returned to Vine Hill to serve on Christian Community Services board of directors and its finance committee for six years. Then a job opened at the housing authority.

She always thought she would retire at Kroger, but the demands (16 freezers go down and you are called in the middle of the night) werent appealing. So she applied for a leasing assistant position. She didnt get it. Two years later a property manager position opened. She didnt get that job either.

But still she pushed, and in 2007 she returned to the housing authority -- not as a resident but as Cumberland Views property manager. At the North Nashville property, she hosted parent-teacher meetings in the community room beside her office and was often asked to visit schools to talk to problem children. She helped residents secure business licenses to become a baker, an aesthetician, a restaurateur.

Their goal was not to stay in public housing, she says. They were moving toward things.

She knew what that felt like. So, she helped.

And now, as property manager at J. Henry Hale Apartments, she fulfills requests from residents in the 188 public housing units and 40 market rate units on the property.

She sets rental rates, helps with move-ins and and scurries around getting keys.

At her own home, she dotes on her now 15-year-old son, a junior at KIPP Academy who runs track and is in TSUs Upward Bound program.

And in the occasional quiet moments, she sits in her office and looks up at the painting hanging between her windows.

I am grateful, she says. I really am.

Right on the money

Category: Basic Money Management
Published: Friday, 03 April 2015
Written by Admin

TWO students from Western Division schools were judged best entries from a total of 224 essays in the Reserve Bank of Fijis Be Money Wise competition.

Sakshi Prayatna from Lautoka Andhra Sangam College scooped the top prize and Divneeta Divya Devi of Tavua College was judged second in the competition which was launched during the 2014 school holidays.

The duo said they learnt a lot about capital markets in the country and were thrilled to receive long-term investments which would go a long way towards helping them achieve future goals.

Ms Prayatna won $100 cash and $600 worth of units in Fijian Holdings Unit Trust and Unit Trust of Fiji.

While presenting the awards last week, Reserve Bank governor Barry Whiteside said it was good to note that many students appreciated the importance of saving towards future goals.

It was also great to note that students are now able to identify with the capital markets. We would like to see this improve in the future and thank the Ministry of Education for teaching children the basic money management skills, including saving and investing.

Out of 224 entries, 165 were from the Western Division, 50 from the Central Division, eight from the Northern Division and one from the Eastern Division.

Lawrence Public Library to host financial literacy clinic

Category: Basic Money Management
Published: Friday, 03 April 2015
Written by Admin

The Lawrence Public Library will again offer the Financial Wellness Clinic, a free financial literacy series, in partnership with Housing and Credit Counseling Services, Inc.

The clinic will consist of a five-part series of workshops, which will provide basic money management and investing information. Each workshop will take place from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Lawrence Public Library auditorium every other Tuesday, starting April 7 and ending June 2.

The April 7 workshop is "Money You: Let's Get Started"; the April 21 workshop is "The Good -- the Bad -- and Ugly in Your Credit Report"; the May 5 workshop is "Is it Better to Rent or Buy?"; the May 19 workshop is "Teaching Your Kids About Money"; and the June 2 workshop is "Basics of Investing."

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Study Finds Gen X Least Likely To Achieve Financial Security

Category: Basic Money Management
Published: Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Written by Admin

According to a generational study by Financial Finesse, each generation has unique vulnerabilities threatening their overall financial security. The Boomers have an impending health care crisis and millennials seem traumatized by the recession, but its Generation X that the study found to be in the most danger.

Gen X, which the study defines as adults between the ages of 30 and 54, lags behind Boomers and millenials in areas of basic money management like handling cash flow, paying bills on time and regularly paying off credit cards in full.

When it comes to saving for the future, they were tied with the millennials at just 17 percent. While many millennials are still young enough to fall back on their parents for support, Gen Xers are more likely to own a home and have children. Their lack of savings comes with an increased financial risk, and many are even sacrificing their own emergency funds to save for their childs college fund.

Its perhaps unsurprising that Gen X also reported the most amount of stress over finances and most likely to feel unable to reach financial goals.

The good news is that Gen Xers are entering their peak earning years and have shown steady improvement in money management skills since Financial Finesses 2012 study. They are also still young enough to create a sizeable retirement plan and take advantage of catch-up contributions. As the economy improves, Gen X could build on this momentum and close the gap with Boomers.

For advisors looking to reach Gen X clients, the report recommending educating them on reducing expenses, saving for retirement while juggling other financial demands, and saving for a childs college fund without jeopardizing other financial goals.

Generation X includes many busy parents, so focus on the value of financial education as a way to save time, simplify their lives, and reduce stress, the report said. Provide access to do-it-yourself content and tools as many prefer to be independent and self-reliant.

The report, which can be found here, dives into the weaknesses and strengths of each generation and provides tips on how to help them.