On the Beat: Take advantage of free financial coaching

The email immediately caught my attention in the early afternoon hours on Tuesday because it originated from right here in Philomath: “Strengthening Rural Families has just started offering a free financial coaching program.”

Financial coaching — that’s something I really could’ve used once upon a time in my life. Actually, more than once. More on that later. First, let me give you the particulars on this new program offered through Strengthening Rural Families.

Staff members Emily Loveall and Izabel Roman Martinez are trained financial coaches that will meet with individuals or couples free of charge. Now, I’m told this service would typically cost you around $100 per hour, so having the opportunity to pick their brains for free sounds like a good first move to work on learning more about handling your finances.

Those choosing to participate can meet with them 1-on-1 or as a couple for an hour at a time — as many times as you’d like. There are no income requirements and it’s open to anyone. The meetings are virtual and confidential.

If you want to make an appointment or have any questions, email Loveall at [email protected] or Roman Martinez at [email protected], or call 541-929-2535. By the way, SRF is offering the financial coaching in collaboration with the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments and Stand By Me Oregon.

So what are some of the areas that you can learn more about through these coaches? Well, let’s start with building your savings.

It’s not easy building a savings account, especially for folks who are pretty much living paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have a savings account for years but now know the importance of setting aside funds for things like medical emergencies, needs for my children, fixing my 2006 Elantra, vacations and so on.

Lowering your debt is another area that impacts a lot of people. I went crazy with credit cards and buying things that I shouldn’t have when I was younger but I suppose you get smarter with age and start to pay a whole lot more attention to those things. It got to the point that nowadays, I don’t even carry a credit card. My wife has one — just in case — but we pay the balance every month.

Raising your credit score is another area where the financial coaches can help you out. The only times I really find out about my credit score is when I want to buy a house or a car (it’s so much fun that I haven’t bought a car in years — that 2006 Elantra I referred to earlier was purchased brand new). I’m halfway kidding, though, because you should keep an eye on your credit with the high-tech crooks we have these days trying to cash in on your behalf.

Becoming a homeowner is a dream for many people, especially with these prices we find here in Oregon. I was in my 40s the first time I bought a house but I must say it wasn’t really a choice to buy when I was younger, it was my circumstances. In my younger years when I was single, I could never find a job that I really wanted to settle down into, so I jumped around from newspaper to newspaper. I’d get bored after a couple of years and move on. So, I always rented.

The first home I owned was in Prescott Valley, Arizona, then the home in Lebanon and now we’re waiting for our house in Philomath to be finished. It’s been my experience that you can build up your bottom line through becoming a homeowner. But it can be tough to get in on it. I actually had to cash in my retirement account to be able to afford the down payment on the Lebanon home. (Disclaimer: Just don’t go out and do that yourself; talk to one of these financial coaches).

Those financial coaches can talk to you about many other topics, including starting a business, going back to school, buying a car and so on.

Over the years, I’ve turned into a numbers nerd with my finances. I suppose that deep down, I’ve always been that way. Back when I was a single dad and my son was 3 years old, we were counting every dollar during a period when we were starting over and I was in a new job. We lived in a studio apartment and slept in a Murphy bed.

Child care took a big chunk of the paycheck. I actually used to keep a running total of my bank account on the back of an envelope and added a new line every time I bought some groceries or splurged on a Dilly bar for the toddler. That balance would get below $10 at times — and I kid you not. It was definitely paycheck to paycheck for us.

I was the sports editor of the newspaper in Williams, Arizona, at the time and when the Grand Canyon editor job opened up, I went into the publisher’s office and cut him a deal. I’ll continue to be the Williams sports editor and will also do the Grand Canyon job. The company could eliminate a position, however, I wanted a $10,000 raise. So it was as they say, a win-win. Our finances improved and we were on our way.

My current financial hurdle is making this news site work. And down the road, I’ll probably want to retire someday. Maybe I could use a financial coach.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher and editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at [email protected])


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