Finance can be a stressful subject for many. One program at the Greenville County Human Relations Commission was developed to change that.
The Greenville Finance Empowerment Center was created in 2019 to help with financial planning. The center organizes outreach programs such as classes on predatory lending and student-loan management. While those classes have been canceled for now due to the coronavirus outbreak, the center’s management hopes to have a class on medical debt in May.
But these classes are only “a first step,” says Luke Crumbaker, a program manager at the center.
Crumbaker says the center’s “bread-and-butter service” is the one-on-one financial counseling it conducts with households — individuals or families.
“Finances are very intimate,” Crumbaker says. “Folks feel like there’s some type of stigma around money.”
In order to help their clients, the financial counselors at the center paint a positive picture of what could be and help clients be held accountable to their financial goals.
Those plans are customized to that household. Counselors help clients track debt, credit, expenses and savings, says Crumbaker. “We help folks improve or decrease as needed,” he says.
Standard tips include cooking at home instead of eating out at restaurants or avoiding hefty cable packages and data plans that will go unused, Crumbaker says. But each client is different — like one of Crumbaker’s clients, a truck driver, who just can’t possibly eat three or even two meals of his day at home.
Since starting up at the end of January, the center has already made an impact. Its clients have reduced their debt by over $150,000, and they’ve added over $116,000 in savings, according to the center.
Those clients run the gamut, from low-income residents to those making six figures. “Financial insecurity is the same across the board,” Crumbaker says. “If it’s bothering you, it’s the same feeling of stress.”
Now with COVID-19, Crumbaker wants people to know the center is there when the Upstate needs it.
“As soon as the smoke clears a little bit, I think everyone is predicting some major financial disruptions going on in our world,” Crumbaker says. “We’re going to be looking at folks who have either lost a lot of money or who are very short on liquid savings coming out of this.”
More information on the services offered by the Greenville Finance Empowerment Center is available at https://www.greenvillefec.com/ or 864-467-7503. Clients must be 18 years or older, and Spanish-speaking counselors are available.