In April, we held our four part Financial Household Resiliency (FHR) workshops at the Lloyd Center. Alyssa was told of the classes by her mother and they decided to attend together. Alyssa explains,“I had wanted to get a better handle on my finances for a long time and this seemed like an easy and cost effective way to do so.”
Although the basics of each class are the same for each series, the classes vary depending on what each participant brings in terms of his/her own experience. The group discussions, debates and sharing are what makes the classes a unique experience for everyone. This past April, IC$ staff was joined by Scott Hartley of Sterling Savings Community Bank who added an informed banking perspective to the mix. Needless to say the “Hands-on Banking” class got juicy when Scott’s asked the group about their worst banking experiences as an icebreaker in the beginning of class.
Alyssa was the brave first to speak up, telling the group how a fraudulent check blocked her out of the banking system. She says “I assumed that the check given to me was a good check since I had no way of knowing otherwise.” Alyssa’s bank was unwilling to work with her and reported the missing funds to ChexSystems. Since this occurrence, for the past five years she has been unable to get a bank account.
Alyssa describes the difficulties of being unbanked: “You can’t pay bills without paying for a money order, or bank check or western union along with the fees associated with that. I had to go to the bank every month to buy money orders so that I could pay my bills. Every time I was given a check I had to go to the bank that issued the check to get it cashed and there, of course, is a fee attached to that.” She continues, “Basically I was paying money out of pocket to compensate for the fact that I didn’t have a bank account.”
At the FHR workshops Alyssa embraced tools to budget and keep track of her finances. During the banking class she was surprised to learn of “second chance” bank accounts- bank accounts for people on ChexSystems. In disbelief that such accounts existed, she inquired more. On the spot Scott gave her the number of a banker at Sterling Savings who would help her set up her own second chance bank account. Alyssa immediately followed up after the class.
A couple weeks later, Alyssa returned to IC$ grinning: she had just opened a bank account. She reported that this was a life changing experience. “I was able to open a bank account and now I have a checking account, savings account, and online banking!” She reflects that her experience at Sterling made her think differently about banks- they are not all the same, “Sterling Savings actually treats you like a real human being, which shouldn’t be too much to ask for from your bank but sadly it is in our society at the moment,” she says.
Now, Alyssa’s goal is to continue organizing her finances and pay off debt that isn’t school related so that she can join the Peace Corps. IC$ wishes Alyssa the best of luck in her upcoming adventures!