Local nonprofit helps transform lives through financial literacy

In 2018, India Simmons was jobless, homeless and doing what she could to make a difference. Today, her credit score is in the 700s and she is saving to buy a house.

She attributes her success to the local nonprofit Common Wealth. “It’s been like a holistic blessing for me,” says Simmons.

  • Common Wealth is helping Charlotte residents change their lives through financial literacy.

Past: Simmons moved to Charlotte from Cleveland, Ohio in 2016 shortly after her father’s death. “I felt like I needed to break free and do something new,” she told me. She quit after working for 10 years at the Cleveland Clinic, got a job and a roommate in Charlotte, and said, “I’m going to the Carolinas.

  • Things took a turn for Simmons when her contract expired and she could no longer pay her rent or her bills. She ended up living in her car and taking showers at the gym. “I went to Starbucks every day and looked for [for jobs],” she says.

Why is this important: Simmons’ story is not unique. In 2019, 40% of Americans were just one missed paycheck away from poverty, according to a report released at the time by economic advocacy group Prosperity Now. That was before the pandemic left millions out of work and created global economic pitfalls.

  • According to a report by LendingClub, at the start of 2022, 64% of the American population was living paycheck to paycheck.

“If you’re making $1,600 to $1,700 a month, you’re barely making enough money for rent. Then you have to pay for food, transportation, child care,” Amy Jacobs, Common Wealth’s Chief Opportunity Officer, explains.

The big picture: In a recent survey of Axios Charlotte readers, nthe first half (45%) of respondents said they do not set a budget.

  • April is financial literacy month. Budgeting is a way to track how much you can spend on your needs and how much you have left for the things you want.

The other side: There are more important, systemic problems, which escape the general population. Organizations like Common Wealth offer solutions, but we also need systemic solutions to poverty.

How it works: Common Wealth helps people who have a job but are still struggling to make ends meet. The organization offers financing workshops, 0% interest loans, and matches people with financial advisors and counselors.

  • Their aim is to reframe mindsets when it comes to saving money – they offer savings advice, credit courses and work to create plans to make financial goals a reality.
  • All services are free.
  • “Our counselors are knowledgeable trauma specialists,” says Jacobs, adding that many of their clients have lived a lifetime in poverty.
  • Yes, but: You don’t have to be from generational poverty or even low income to meet one of their financial agents.

What they say : Simmons says it wasn’t easy for her to ask for help at first. “I was embarrassed – to have moved, to have given up my good life, my good job, to come to a city where I had no idea what I was going to face and I was in this position.”

  • Since discovering Common Wealth, Simmons has taken workshops on credit, savings, buying a home, insurance and life insurance.
  • “They gave me tools so I could find my livelihood and never lose it,” she said.

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