David and Janna hadn’t planned on getting into debt. But the family didn’t have health insurance at the time Janna was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008. Priorities took precedence and the family ran up high medical bills as Janna got the treatment and attention she needed. “From that point forward, it seemed that the harder we tried, the more we kept digging ourselves into a pit of debt,” the couple said recently.
These days, the family is on the road to financial recovery – saving money – as one of 35 participants in the Financial Fitness Academy run by the recently-created LendingTree Foundation. Their story is also particularly relevant during America Saves Week (Feb. 20-27), which provides us all a chance to bring attention to the issue of saving money.
With the help of the program, the couple say they have learned to make smarter financial decisions: “What did change was our understanding of how our everyday choices impacted our finances significantly…the re-orientating of our thinking has led to a complete change in the way we handle our finances.”
The LendingTree Foundation’s Financial Fitness Academy Program started in Charlotte, North Carolina last year. Volunteer coaches are trained on the program curriculum which consists of lessons such as budgeting, lowering living expenses, cutting discretionary spending and saving for the future. The coaches work one-on-one with members of the community who want to reduce their debt and increase their savings. Once clients have their debt under control and are able to save, they have the opportunity to apply for a matched based savings plan offered by the Foundation. The Foundation plans to launch a national program to provide seminars at various locations as well as develop online workshops to help others achieve their savings goals.
“Our goal is to provide our clients with the tools and support they need to empower them to make smart financial decisions,” said Sharon Fowler, Executive Director of the LendingTree Foundation. “Ultimately, we want to help people get to the point where they can save for the future, whether it’s for emergencies, retirement, a home, or education.”
Fowler said the the family (pictured above) is now able to save money every month and have a goal of saving 6 months of living expenses over the next two years. As they work toward that goal, a portion of the money they are saving will be matched by the Foundation to purchase a computer for their children for school projects, and the rest will to towards the children’s future education.
Photo: courtesy of LendingTree Foundation
Anna Cearley is Social Media Director at LendingTree/Tree.com
To learn more about the LendingTree Foundation contact Sharon Fowler at email@example.com or visit their website at www.thelendingtreefoundation.org.