Financial Literacy Month: Three steps to better finances

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 10:34 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - April is Financial Literacy Month: a time to raise awareness about financial literacy and promote financial education. And there is a place in Roanoke where you can find both.

The Freedom First Financial Empowerment Center offers free one-on-one financial counseling.

Keri Garnett, a counselor with the FEC, joined us on the WDBJ7+ Digital News Desk Tuesday. She shared with us suggestions for the kinds of things you can do right now to improve your personal finances. This especially as more people are working to budget an increased cost of living, particularly with rent.

Garnett said one of the biggest things she stresses is making sure you have credit.

“There’s a lot of financial advice out there and a lot of programs which advise people to have no credit card, no debt, no anything and that can really damage people in the long run, especially if maybe their goal is to purchase a home or buy a car or something,” she explained. “If you don’t have credit at all it can really take a long time to build that up later in life.”

Keeping that in mind, Garnett said the top three things she’d recommend right now to help improve your personal finances:

1- Focus on savings. She recommends setting a goal for your savings account.

2-Reduce your debt to under 30 percent of your utilization.

3-Don’t apply for mall credit cards. While it might give a small discount, you’re better off saving.

“We’ve helped a lot of people build or establish credit that now are in the process of searching for a home,” Garnett said. “So we’ve seen people start from the bottom and now they’re ready to buy a home so it can happen in a relatively short time as long as you’re focused and you’re working with your counselor to achieve all the steps along the way.”

In the last two years, the financial empowerment center has helped reduce debt of Roanokers by more than $800,000.

Counseling sessions are free and unlimited.

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