COLUMBIA - With a slowing economy, some families who were already living paycheck to paycheck are finding it even more difficult to make ends meet.
Three Columbia churches, Fairview United Methodist Church, Woodcrest Chapel and Alive in Christ Lutheran Church are offering help for these families by implementing Financial Peace University, a 13-week program taught by Dave Ramsey via video.
The course begins at 5 p.m. Sunday at Fairview United Methodist Church and at 6 p.m. Aug. 28 at Alive in Christ Lutheran Church.
The course teaches families about money and enables them to "beat debt and build wealth God's way," according to the program's Web site.
Ramsey began teaching the program in 1994 in Nashville, Tenn. The Web site says the average family using the program eliminates $5,300 in debt, while saving $2,700. The site says the program has helped 650,000 families improve their financial future.
Tom Trabue, who is the class coordinator at Fairview Methodist, has seen success stories throughout his involvement with the program. "Families who have established savings, or emergency funds, can weather a job layoff or an unplanned major expense much easier than those without," he said. One graduate of the program told Trabue, "‘I know for the first time in my life what my bottom line is - what it takes to keep my household afloat.'"
The graduate had just changed his job, Trabue said. The man and his family now have set specific financial goals for their future with regard to debt reduction/elimination. They are also planning for their children's college fund, Trabue said, citing an example of what the course teaches.
The class costs $100 for 13 sessions. Topics covered are saving, relating with money, cash-flow planning, dumping debt, collection practices, insurance, negotiating bargains, investing, retirement and college planning, real estate and mortgages and tithing.
Trabue noted that often people only learn about these things from their parents, who may have been living from paycheck to paycheck themselves. The Financial Peace University class assists those who may have had little or no training or guidance in these areas.
"A very important thing is knowledge," Trabue said. "We often purchase products, insurance or investments, for example, that we have little understanding about. Most people do not understand how 401(k)s work."
Some argue that the Financial Peace University class is contradictory to Christian beliefs that discourage the love of money, as seen in 1 Timothy 6:10, a Bible verse that states: "The love of money is the root of all evil."
Trabue said this class does not promote the love of money, rather the ability to be "good stewards of the resources that God has provided to us." He said the main focus of the class is to teach people to be better stewards of all their resources by increasing knowledge.
Financial Peace University also offers class formats tailored to the workplace, military, nonprofits and other community groups.
To register for the FPU classes at Fairview United Methodist Church, call Trabue at 445-5538 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for the sessions at Alive In Christ Church, call Jake Dablemont at 268-4977 or e-mail him at email@example.com.