Danielle smiles as she pays her bills each month, but just over a year ago she walked into the United Way’s Financial Empowerment Center in tears because she was unable to pay for her utilities.
When Danielle’s 30-year marriage ended, she was left with no income. And because her partner had always handled the money, she had no clue how to manage her finances, pay her taxes or allocate her spousal and child support. As she leafed through bills she wasn’t sure she could pay, Danielle felt helpless.
She needed guidance. And then she found a water bill insert telling her she could call 211 for financial assistance. So she did. “Finding that card in my water bill,” she recalls, “that was my saving grace.” She called 211 and quickly scheduled an appointment at the Financial Empowerment Center, created through a partnership between United Way and the City of Akron.
Going into her first financial coaching appointment at the FEC in January 2020, Danielle wasn’t sure what to expect. She was afraid she would be judged for having relied on her ex-husband to handle the finances and never learning how to financially manage a household on her own. But Tory, her financial coach, helped ease her fear.
Tory and Danielle started talking about the importance of a sustainable budget. Danielle began tracking her spending. Before long, Tory saw Danielle’s confidence and financial knowledge grow. “It was great to watch her start controlling her finances,” says Tory.
After 19 financial coaching sessions, Danielle has saved $5,000 dollars, reduced her debt by $4,000, improved her credit score by 88 points and eliminated nine delinquent accounts on her credit report. Now with two income streams, a savings and retirement account and a working budget, she is putting money toward personal goals. Danielle is thriving as a financially empowered Akron resident. She says, “Because of financial coaching my budget has been so on point that when I pay the bills I smile.”
In 2020, Danielle was able to purchase a new car, and she is paying for her daughter’s college tuition and home renovations. “The Financial Empowerment Center has changed my life,” she says. Danielle is now teaching her daughter how to manage money and pay bills. She even has a blessings spot in her budget. Paying it forward is a big part of Danielle’s life. Being able to help someone in their time of need is what makes her past struggles worth it.
Created through a partnership with the City of Akron, the FEC provides free, one-on-one financial coaching, helping Summit and Medina county residents acquire the skills to budget and save, access safe and affordable banking and raise their credit scores. As of June 2021, 2,486 Summit County residents are on the path to financial empowerment.