Local conference helps residents learn to be financially savvy

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By Alice Du Pont

William Marshall came from Tallahassee last Thursday morning to attend the second annual GadsdenSaves seminar on becoming financially savvy and debt free. At 80 years old, Marshall said he was not worried about debt but about how he would be able to pay for long-term care in case he has to live in a nursing home. His attention was on how the reverse mortgage program works. Before the end of the seminar, he knew his options.

"Every red-blooded sister and brother should have been here. The information they passed along was excellent," he said following the seminar, as he gathered brochures to read later.

He said he is going back to share the information with his church members and friends.

Almost a dozen presenters were on hand at the three-hour seminar that included topics ranging from identifying scams to learning how to save.

Linda Richardson, coordinator for the Community Action Agency of Gadsden County, explained that resources are available to help people pay their utility bills. People in need, she said, don't have to suffer. The Community Action Agency, Richardson said, is looking for families who want to do better and make a change in their lives.

"These are hard economic times for a lot of people so we are looking to offer different alternatives. That's the reason we have representatives here from Workforce, several banks and credit unions, as well as people from state agencies who have information to tell you where to go when you don't know where to go," said GadsdenSaves organizer Lillian Johnson.

The event was free but organizers said all they asked is that people who attended open a savings account. And to notify the organizers if and when they open the account. Johnson said the countywide financial conference encouraged people to get into the habit of saving first instead of last.

"The only way to save is to spend less than you earn. Pay yourself. Learn to pay yourself first just as you set aside money to pay your other bills. Set a goal and develop the habit of saving. If that is too hard, have your employer take money out of your paycheck each pay period. If you don't see it, you will think you don't have it," said Mary Alice Tiller of Capital City Bank.

Another way to save money for the future is to contribute the maximum amount into your retirement, according to Tiller. She advised that people should try to have enough cash reserves on hand for 3 to 6 months of living expenses should an emergency arise.

"Other ways to save include direct deposit, payroll deductions and automatic transfer monthly from checking into savings," Tiller said.

Sherry Vanlandingham, vice president of Premier Bank, urged those attending to use their bank or credit union as a resource.

"You don't want to wait and wait until it's too late and we can't help you. Talk with your banker. A bank is not a place to go just to put your money in. We know what's out there to help you. We also know the scams that are out there, we know the newest robbery techniques and we're seeing more and more problems with our people every day. These are difficult times and things are not going to get better overnight," she said.