Carla received an email from her coworker with the subject line, “Financial Empowerment Centers, Free Financial Counseling.” This email could not have been sent to Carla at a better time: “At the time, I was behind two years on my property taxes and had some IRS issues. Thankfully I had the resources to handle these situations but I needed confirmation, a budget and, most importantly, help.”
Carla went ahead and signed up for the service. “It felt great to get all these financial burdens off my chest!” Her past situation is no reflection as to where she is now. Through monthly appointments and following the advice of her financial counselor, those issues are now in the past and her credit score went up because of it. Carla says, “The best part of this free service is that you can explore different financial avenues with unlimited advice to refine your financial direction with no pressure. You do not feel the anxiety you normally feel when you work with your finances by yourself; you are with someone who supports you!”
Carolyn was referred to the Financial Empowerment Center after she retired. “My spending was out of control. My tendency was to spend the same amount as when I was working. I needed a new mindset, I needed a budget, and I needed one very soon.”
Because of the Financial Empowerment Centers, Carolyn “was able to look at finances in a positive way.”
Through journaling, collecting every receipt, and slowly paying off her debts, Carolyn now has a savings account and “a greater understanding of where my money is going.” Carolyn feels as though controlling your finances is like a diet: “It takes time, discipline and hard work but I was able to see that I was the problem but I was also the solution!”
Darcy received an email from her employer for free financial counseling. Skeptical at first, she decided to give the Financial Empowerment Centers a call to ask more questions. At the time she received this email, she was going through bankruptcy and “needed more guidance and help than the lawyers were giving.” After reading the email and calling, she scheduled her first appointment, changing her life for the better ever since.
Darcy felt as though, “she had no one to turn too” until her financial counselor set up a budget, called her creditors and negotiated repayment plans. After working at her financial situation diligently for the past 9 months, Darcy is happy to report that, “I will be back on track by the beginning of 2014 without any headaches and a bit of savings because of this service.”
Hetti was reading her Sunday newspaper when she saw an ad for the “Financial Empowerment Centers.” Knowing she needed the help, she gave them a call the next day. Hetti had a rough 2013, with a very expensive surgery in July and financial headaches ever since. “I have been getting 3 – 4 bills a day for this surgery; it seemed like any doctor who said hello to me charged me!” Her bills added up to $100,000. Having no way to pay for these costs, she turned to Charity Care, a free service that will help pay medical debt if the patient is not able to.
The paperwork for Charity Care became too much for Hetti to handle and unfortunately she received little help from her caseworker. Hetti “could not handle the pressure of these bills, but the time the [Financial Empowerment Center] counselor spent with me was very important to me. She actually cared; she took extra time to help me when she did not have too.” After working relentlessly to make the 10 day application deadline, Hetti’s application was sent in time.
Jessica had recently switched from original Medicare to part C with the expectation that it would save her money. So when a stranger came to her door and told her she was paying too much for her health insurance, she was concerned enough to be wary. She consulted her FEC counselor to check it out. They went over what part C was, its intended purpose, her general options regarding original medicare, part C with and without drug plans, or original with medigap. They discussed where she could go to investigate Part C plans, how to assess them and went through a couple of examples. At the end of the day, she decided that while she didn’t like her current plan, it was probably better than the alternatives. And she didn’t lose any money to that stranger!
At a family gathering, Joanne’s cousins told her about a free financial counseling service they were using. This free service could not come soon enough for Joanne, who was feeling financially burnt out. “My husband was ill and a lot of our money was going to his medical expenses. Some bills were not as important as his health and the nursing home took all of his income.” She trusted her cousins and gave the Financial Empowerment Center a call.
When Joanne first began using the service, “I would beat myself up and my financial counselor would tell me how well I was doing and give me the guidance and strength to push through.” After making phone calls to each medical billing agency, Joanne was put on a repayment plan she could manage, “Before this service, I considered bankruptcy because the debt became so unbearable. However, the best part is that there is no time limit; I can go back as many times as I want and fortunately did not have to declare bankruptcy.”
Joe was laid off from his job after sixteen years, leaving him with $13,000 and no easy way to pay it off.
When a friend saw a Financial Empowerment Center ad on SEPTA, she passed the phone number to Joe, who scheduled an appointment. While budgeting during unemployment is difficult, he was committed to bettering his financial situation.
With help from his counselor, Joe managed to pay down much of his debt, reestablish his credit, open bank accounts, and even start a retirement fund.
“The counselors aren’t judgmental because anyone has made mistakes in their past,” said Joe. “They just want to help you move forward.”
When Mildred heard that the Financial Empowerment Centers were offering a free presentation about their services at her work, she became overwhelmed with excitement because “I needed the help and I needed the guidance and I needed it fast.” Mildred had goals for herself and she knew her poor credit was affecting them: after the presentation, Mildred says she “thought about my debt and how it hinders my ability to buy a home. I needed to get my credit together before I could start that process.”
That day, Mildred signed up for an appointment and she has never looked back. “My first appointment was amazing. I was held accountable and painted a picture with my receipts and bank statements which showed me how much money I was actually spending rather than how much I thought I was spending. It made me sit back and think that this has to stop somewhere, and I can stop it!” Slowly but surely, Mildred was able to pay her debts while maintaining a savings account. “Even if it was $20 a paycheck, it was something.” After all her hard work, Mildred was able to join a first time homeowner’s organization.