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NNS Spotlight: Riverworks clinic teaches clients financial literacy



Chris Free (left) and Yolanda Coleman offer financial assistance through the Riverworks Financial Clinic. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

For nearly 20 years, Maggie Barnes, 59, lived in the Majestic Lofts, an apartment complex in the former Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee.

The location suited Barnes’ needs: It was safe, it was accessible  to transit lines, and it was conveniently located near a Walgreens.

Even more appealing was the fact that because the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA, controlled the rent, Barnes, who is unable to work due to a disability, was able to afford to live downtown.

But in 2020, Hempel Properties, a commercial real estate firm based in Minneapolis, bought the property. Barnes was told on March 1 that she had 28 days to leave her home.

After receiving her notice, Barnes turned to Community Advocates and the Urban Economic Development Association, which, in turn, connected her to Riverworks Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization on the North Side that provides economic and community development programs.

With the help of Riverworks’ staff, “I was able to apply for an apartment and acquire one,” Barnes said. “Credit plays a role in just about everything and here [at her current apartment], they wanted to make sure I established good credit for myself.”

It was nice to get help from someone who knew what questions to ask, Barnes said.

And that “someone” was Coretta Herring, the financial clinic director, who has been with Riverworks on and off for about 10 years. Recently, Riverworks, located at 526 E. Concordia Ave., announced it was expanding its financial clinic to better support the needs of the community.

Herring began as the director of the organization’s financial opportunity center, which offered financial coaching, workforce development and income support.

“Over the years, we realized we were missing a bunch of families,” Herring said. “We wanted to put an emphasis on the financial piece because that’s where a lot of folks were hurting. The financial clinic is like a medical clinic. You go to the financial clinic because you’re hurting.”

“It’s a one-stop shop to help families become financially stable,” says Yolanda Coleman, the program’s financial navigator. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

‘A financial plan’

When clients come to the financial clinic, they talk about everything from their budget to their credit report, Herring said. The clinic’s focus is financial education.

“Everybody walks out with a financial plan, which we call a ‘prescription,’ ” Herring said, adding that the clinic does monthly check-ins to support residents.

With Herring’s help, Barnes learned how to contact credit agencies to pay off her debts and how to set up payment plans.

“If I didn’t have Coretta, I wouldn’t be here,” Barnes said. “She’s still helping me and it’s free.”

Barnes now lives in the North Shore area.

The clinic offers several programs, including a year-round VITA tax program, credit assistance and the financial navigator program.

“It’s a one-stop shop to help families become financially stable,” said Yolanda Coleman, the program’s financial navigator.

Coleman and her co-workers help individuals and families with rent payment assistance applications, utilities, FoodShare, unemployment, homeownership counseling, credit repair and more.

The Riverworks Financial Clinic has 25 staff members and helps about 1,500 families a year, she said.

It starts with a phone call and goes from there, she said.

After 17 years, Maggie Barnes had to leave her home, but she found a new place to live with help from Riverworks Financial Clinic. (Photo by Ana Martinez-Ortiz)

‘If you know better, you’ll do better’

Chris Free, a financial coach, specializes in tax assistance and educates clients on employment taxes, property taxes and other things.

“Programs like ours are really needed in the community, especially when it comes to finances,” Free said, adding that some clients feel “that money is evil, money is taboo.

“But money is just a tool that we all should learn.”

If someone isn’t properly trained in how to use a tool, they’ll misuse it, Free said, which is why Riverworks Financial Clinic is so essential.

“If you know better, you’ll do better,” Coleman said.

People are told to save or have an emergency fund or open a bank account, but they are not taught how nor are they taught why that’s important, Free said.

“Everyone has their issues and their things when they come through our door,” Free said. “The lack of financial literacy does not discriminate.”

Want to learn more?

To schedule an appointment with a financial navigator, call 414-882-7440 or sign up online by clicking here.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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