APY or APR, it’s all OK for Money Smart grads

The 11-week program teaches participants about saving money and building credit.
Thursday, May 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:14 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

What does FDIC stand for? LaVonda Carter can tell you it stands for Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

By completing the new Money Smart course offered by the Columbia Housing Authority, Carter said she learned the difference between APY and APR — annual percentage yield and annual percentage rate — and in doing so gained financial savvy she’ll need to reach her dream of owning of home.

On Wednesday the housing authority held a graduation for the first seven people who have completed the FDIC Money Smart curriculum. An FDIC representative handed out the certificates.

During the 11-week program that began March 1, participants learned how to save money, build credit and apply for loans — with an eye toward home ownership.

“This program empowers people,” program graduate Alan Porter said. “It gives them the resources to make choices about the future.”

Porter, a recent MU graduate, checked his credit card statements more closely because of the class, and he found he was double-charged for an item. Now he’s written a letter to the company and requested a reply within 60 days, something he wouldn’t have known to do otherwise.

Porter said he hopes to move out of his home in Paquin Tower by the time he earns his master’s degree in about a year and a half.

“A lot of times we have dreams, but unless we write them down, we won’t obtain them,” Porter said of his dream of homeownership. “I never thought of planning while still in school.”

Roberta Mahannah and Marcie Luebbert thought they almost had a home when the mortgage company they were working with suddenly backed out. They attended the class to find out why that happened and learned that it was a type of scam that they luckily didn’t lose money on.

“Now we know better,” Mahannah said.

Verlencia Chambers said she hopes to be selected for a Habitat for Humanity house on Saturday, but if that doesn’t work out, she said she’ll try to get assistance through housing authority homeownership programs. More important, the program gave her skills and inspiration for life in general.

“I stuck with something I wanted really badly,” she said.

Vikki Salerno, Money Smart instructor and authority employee, said the program addresses long-term family self-sufficiency by looking at the root causes of financial trouble.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Salerno said. “The potential here is really great.”

Money Smart is for anyone, not just those with housing assistance. The next sessions start June 7, and Salerno said she’s already sent about 500 letters to get the word out around the community.

In the Midwest FDIC region during April, more than 12,000 organizations — from educational services to credit unions — requested the free curriculum. By the end of the year, the FDIC hopes to have an interactive computer curriculum available.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development first offered the class in 1999 as a pilot program. Today, more than 2,000 families are enrolled in the program nationwide.

The Columbia course is offered by the housing authority and CHA Low-Income Services Inc., its non-profit organization. The Columbia Board of Realtors gave the authority $1,600 to begin the program, and lender Kimberly Hindelang provided credit reports at a reduced rate.

“It’s a very worthwhile program,” said Patricia Bixler of the Board of Realtors. “It will affect generations to come.”

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