Missouri: In St. Louis, Adults Step through Gateway to Financial Fitness

graduation
It was graduation night recently for participants in the Gateway to Financial Fitness program in St. Louis. Jane Schoeck, program coordinator, is shown at left. (Photo by Ann Applebaum-Widner)

Gateway to Financial Fitness provides personal financial education to the St. Louis community through a series of five workshops and financial counseling. The goals are to help individuals achieve better financial health and improve their housing situations.

The workshops are interactive and are taught by local financial professionals. Topics include:

  • values, goal setting and spending plans;
  • credit and consumer rights;
  • financial institutions, saving and investing;
  • insurance and
  • record keeping, taxes and contracts.

During counseling sessions, participants receive help with setting goals, developing spending plans and debt repayment plans, if needed, as well as reviewing their credit reports. In addition to encouraging sound financial decisionmaking, the program also promotes homeownership and helps existing homeowners maintain ownership by avoiding bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Launched in 2001 as a three-year pilot, Gateway to Financial Fitness is a collaboration among Neighborhood Housing Services Inc., the Catholic Commission on Housing and the University of Missouri Outreach and Extension. It is funded by Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. and supported by national partnerships with Providian Financial, Fleet Financial, Visa USA, Metropolitan Life Foundation and Morgan Stanley Foundation. St. Louis partners include financial institutions, the FDIC and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Gateway to Financial Fitness is free and offered at various locations around the St. Louis metropolitan area. Individuals who need additional resources are referred to supporting agencies that can offer further assistance.

So far, about 25 people have graduated from workshops held at four different locations. Four additional sites started workshops in December 2001, and plans are under way for more workshops in 2002.

Though the program is just getting started, participants give a high rating to the workshops.

"Everything that was taught I need to know," one respondent states on a program evaluation. "This class has been extremely helpful. ... This class has changed my life."

For more information, contact Catholic Commission on Housing at (314) 371-0138.

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