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Sep. 17

A Life-Changing Chance to Get Out of Debt

This post is by a woman named Karen, who shares how the Financial Opportunity Corps and a volunteer financial coach helped her dig out of crushing debt. (We are withholding her last name to protect her privacy.)

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On Black Friday last year, I gave myself a gift. I walked into the office of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Clarifi and I paid off my debt early. And then I cried.

I cried because just a few years earlier I faced a mountain of credit card bills I didn’t think I would ever pay off. I was scared, ashamed and secretive about my financial situation.

And now, just a few years later, I can attest that Clarifi changes lives. They put me on the path that helped turn mine around. I can’t say it was easy, even when I was set up on a debt management plan. I was scared.

I wasn’t sure I could pay off this chunk of money every month for five years. Nearly the same amount as my rent. Money was tight; I could no longer rely on credit cards as free money. I had to face reality, but I never missed a payment.

Last year, Clarifi offered me another life-changing opportunity, to be paired with a financial coach through the Financial Opportunity Corps – a partnership between Points of Light, Bank of America, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. It was free of charge to me, to help me continue developing healthy financial habits.

It couldn’t have come at a better time, because I had recently launched my own consulting business, so I needed to keep my budget in check more than ever.

My coach, my mentor, Jerry Block, is a big deal at U.S. Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management. But he never spoke down to me – actually, completely the opposite. He genuinely believed that I could be successful.

Plus, I learned lots of practical tips from him. For instance, I learned that I could save $50 a month from switching to my mother’s family phone plan. So today, thanks to Clarifi, Jerry, the support of loved ones, and yes, my own hard work, life is very different.

I have great credit, I just bought a car and I have a business that continues to grow. And without the fear and crushing weight that comes with crushing debt, the future feels open and full of possibility. 

For more about the Financial Opportunity Corps, visit www.pointsoflight.org/financial-coaching.

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