Empowering financial freedom

It was during the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis that Lakeezia realized she was struggling with her finances. Her credit card debt had piled up and she knew she needed help getting back on track. That’s when she was introduced to United Way’s Access-Savings-Support-Education-Training (ASSET) Program through our partner agency, Parents as Teachers.

The ASSET program provides financial education and empowerment to families who are struggling financially. It is one of our financial stability initiatives that we offer in partnership with other local nonprofit organizations.

This program gives participants the opportunity to receive financial coaching, build better credit, set financial goals, and more. Over the course of its nine-year existence, nearly one thousand families have participated, with 77% showing an increase in financial knowledge at the end of their participation.

Through the program, Lakeezia completed a five-part financial education series and met with a financial coach to help her create strategies and plan ways to pay off her debt. Lakeezia’s financial coach stressed the importance of meeting financial goals and eliminating debt through saving.

“He helped me understand my goals, and what was a reasonable amount that I could save to help me clear the debt,” said Lakeezia. “He kept me on the right track, he encouraged me to keep saving and offered me any resources that he could to help me along in my savings plans.”

Lakeezia said this program has been such a useful resource by introducing her to many financial aspects, institutions, and terminology that she was previously unfamiliar with. ASSET has allowed her to become more financially literate and therefore has helped her in her journey to become more financially stable.

“This program has shown me the amount of discipline it takes to save money and has introduced me to crediting institutions and resources you can use to get your credit where you want it to be,” said Lakeezia. “This information helped me get rid of the debt and led me on the path to living a more financially stable life.”

Lakeezia met with her financial coach over the course of several months, and he encouraged her to take small amounts of money from each of her paychecks and set it aside to pay towards her credit card debt.

This method proved to be successful, and, in a matter of months, she had completely paid off her credit card, she was debt free.

“It was amazing, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders,” said Lakeezia. “It felt good that I was able to discipline myself enough to save that money. I’m so glad I got help.”

Coaching financial success

Denise Thomas has been a financial coach for ASSET for seven years after working in business, marketing and sales management for decades before retiring in 2015. She grew up in a 12-person household that often-faced limited resources and financial issues, and when she first started out as an adult, she struggled with the same issues.

“Growing up, we didn’t have a lot. It’s hard to make things stretch 12 ways,” said Thomas. “When I grew up, I knew I wanted to have perfect credit, but I made every mistake you can think of when I first started out. But a friend of mine said, ‘you should go see my financial planner,’ and that changed my life.”

Her financial planner taught her about the importance of financial literacy and smart money management and how that builds good credit. Years later, she was eager to use what she learned over the years to help other people, and that’s what triggered her to volunteer with ASSET.

Thomas believes the ASSET program is valuable because it builds long term healthy financial habits.

“ASSET helps people become financially independent because if they follow the steps of the program, they’ll have the opportunity to move forward and succeed.”

ASSET is currently looking for volunteers who have experience with finance and money management that are passionate about helping people reach their financial goals. Those looking to volunteer can visit stlvolunteer.org.

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Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries

Rodney Humphries is the Communications Specialist for United Way of Greater St. Louis and a proud graduate of Webster University where he developed his passion for writing. In college, he combined his love for writing and sports, serving as the primary sports writer for his school newspaper while also developing his own sports blog. After graduating, he continued his love for writing as he served as a freelance writer for various publications. Rodney continues to be a fan of Webster athletics, you will often see him sitting courtside at a lot of their basketball games.