by Emily Rendall-Araujo
Every month, we feature a United Way Partner Agency, demonstrating the impact that donations to United Way of Sheboygan County are making. This month’s feature was submitted by Wayne Griesbach, Executive Director of the Family Service Assocation. Here’s their story:
The stock market has increased to unprecedented heights. Unemployment is reported at record lows. Inflation is said to be close to a manageable 3% level. One would think that prosperity is here. Polls taken of consumers indicate otherwise. Most people are struggling to make ends meet. Many are living paycheck to paycheck and are one financial incident away from financial disaster. Why does this dichotomy exist?
Every economic recovery that has occurred in the last 50 years has always included a slow but robust recovery. The middle class has always felt the financial benefits of an economic rebound. This present recovery has left most of the middle class behind. While the reasons for this are complex, it is evident by several tell-tale signs that most of the middle class is experiencing poor financial health. To put it in medical terms, we are suffering from chronic illness that is not benign. Without intervention, we may not recover.
At least one out of three people are carrying past due unsecured debt and being charged very high interest rates. One out of three consumers are saddled with close to $30,000 in student loan debt at an average of 5% interest. Forget about the starter home; most young adults will be making student loan payments for at least 20 years. A substantial portion of this debt will go into default.
With two out of three consumers operating without a TRUE budget, there is reason for concern. Most U.S. consumers have inadequate savings for unexpected car repairs, medical occurrences (many carry high deductibles) or other unexpected unplanned expenses; they are one incident from being behind the financial eight ball.
To make things worse, the baby boomers are entering their golden years with very little savings. The average age expectancy is now in the lower eighties. Many will be forced to go on public assistance. This puts an enormous burden on younger tax payers.
It sounds dire, but it doesn’t have to be! We can take back control of our lives by acknowledging that a lot of us need help and the help is out there.
We have acknowledged the enemy and the enemy is us. Consumer Credit Counseling has taken initiative to bring help to a financially vulnerable public.
Corporate Financial Wellness: Many employers are choosing to increase their employee benefits with a financial wellness package. We have three plans including our popular Corporate Challenge, where teams of employees compete with each other in a fun and meaningful way. Most participants make life changing steps toward achieving financial stability. The employer benefits too: financially stable employees are more productive, absent less, tardy less, better team members and save employer payroll taxes with increased employee savings. This is a win-win.
Churches: Churches are bellwethers for life-changing events. These events almost always change financial circumstances. Imagine the power of newlyweds having shared financial goals and an agreed upon REAL budget at the beginning of their life together. A real budget is where every penny is going somewhere that was agreed upon. There is power in understanding your partner’s money style. There is power in agreement.
Financial vitality and stability is still a reachable goal. We can all take steps to get the help we need. Ignoring this any longer may make our prognosis terminal.
Our services include:
- Budget Counseling: a personal balance sheet, built around unique circumstances and a spending plan that addresses financial goals
- Debt Management Programs—for qualified clients who are drowning in credit card debt
- Bankruptcy counseling and education—a personal financial assessment
- Housing counseling and foreclosure and loss mitigation services
- Financial education—providing the skills and knowledge to make better financial choices
- Student Loan Counseling