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Eradicating Poverty by Teaching Dollars and Sense

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January 4, 2010

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Focusing on a financial future of stability and savings is the goal of a Charlottesville program on helping Virginia families rise out of poverty. Karen Shepard, who heads the Monticello Area Community Action Agency, says people who live paycheck to paycheck often get involved with expensive short-term loans.

The only way to stop the cycle, she says, is to teach families how to stabilize their income: "How to eliminate debt, save income, plan for rainy days, take what little income you may have and make it last, and look at owning rather than renting."

Shepard explains a key tenet of the program is that no one ever spent their way out of poverty. She adds that the Family Economic Security program helps families pay down debt, establish credit and develop a savings plan.

For example, the program encourages families to save money for purchases instead of borrowing money from what Shepard calls "predatory" lenders.

"Families should pay down those buy-here/pay-here people; put some money in the bank; then use that as security for a low-interest loan at that bank."

Shepard says the program teaches families how to stop using high-interest short-term lenders and instead, build upon relationships with community banks.

"We suggest they look at borrowing money from reputable institutions rather than predatory lenders. It's just geared at teaching people good financial habits."

More information is available at Monticello Area Community Action Agency, 434-295-3171 or www.MACAA.org.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA