Sometimes our best intentions can unintentionally lead us to difficult times. When Ms. Waters* contacted 2-1-1, she was struggling with her bills and debt after trying to take a step in the right direction by opening a bank account. In the process of moving toward building up some savings, she ended up buried in bank fees that she didn’t realize she was accruing. She got pulled into a cycle of trying to get caught up and out of the fees. Having a fixed and limited income, due to her disability, this was a daunting and increasingly impossible task. Her stress levels were going up, and with her disability that meant running the risk of re-occurring health problems. Marsha Holloway, with the United Way, let us know that Ms. Waters is not alone. She shared that frequently participants in the United Way financial education workshops are in the same situation with a bank having accrued fees that they can not pay due to financial hardship.
The Information and Referral Specialist at 2-1-1 connected her with a local agency to help her pay her rent. While this helped her come out on top and get out of debt, the assistance that she appreciated the most was attending a class at Interfaith Emergency Services to help her learn strategies for managing her finances. She already knew and practiced some of the tips shared in the class, but there were many strategies that she hadn’t been aware of before which are playing a big roll in her staying out of debt. One piece of advice that Holloway gives to participants in her workshops is, “Maintain constant contact with your financial institutions. Let them know what is happening if you experience financial hardship. Sometimes they can work with you during times of financial hardship by doing things like freezing fees.”
The United Way has a Bank on Marion program which helps increase financial stability of people who don’t have bank accounts or people who do, but frequently use check cashing financial services(which come with exorbitant fees). Heart of Florida United Way stated that “It’s estimated that a full-time worker without a bank account spends $40,000 over the course of a lifetime just to cash paychecks.” Many people don’t know that Marion County has many free classes, teaching community members how to budget and providing financial counseling. Ms. Waters shared that she didn’t know that the service even existed and she definitely wanted to recommend the classes to other community members who are struggling financially. Having her finances back in order “is definitely a relief”.
*Name changed for confidentiality
“What Can I Do?”:
To volunteer with an organization that helps improve financial stability in Marion County, visit the United Way Volunteer Resource Center.
Call the United Way at 352-732-9696 to learn about resources for opening a bank account with no fees and no minimum balance by asking about the Bank on Marion program.