Realizing you need to become financially literate, or educated, is the first step. Finding that education can be quite another. That's one of the reasons Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington state declared Feb. 21-28 as the first "Washington Saves Week."
Because America's rate of saving fell this decade to its lowest point since the Great Depression, Gregoire issued an official proclamation to encourage public and private organizations to work together to illustrate the importance of saving money. Activities going on this week are in conjunction with "America Saves Week."
The goal is to motivate residents of Washington to review and align their savings plans with their financial goals, according to the Washington state Department of Financial Institutions.
In Walla Walla, there are numerous avenues of raising your money IQ. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin has compiled a listing of some of the options. We found that nearly every bank offers, at the least, one-on-one counseling with customers. As well, people can take advantage of programs at local schools, churches and nonprofit agencies:
- SonBridge Community Center, 1200. S.E. 12th St., College Place. Beginning Sunday, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, 13 sessions, $110, some scholarship help available. This course is oriented toward singles, but the class is open to all. Call 529-3100.
- Consumer Credit Counseling Services, 5 W. Alder St. Offers one-on-one budgeting services, education in credit scoring, basic financial education, debt management programs, pre-filing bankruptcy counseling. CCCS is a nonprofit organization with a 40-year history. Some services are free, some have a fee, but no one is turned away due to inability to pay. Call 525-2132 or 800-201-2181.
- GESA Credit Union, 1355 W. Poplar St. Provides free or low-cost online education through its BALANCE and BalanceTrack programs, including core aspects of financial skills such as checking account management, credit report information, investing basics and home ownership guidance. Open to all. Go to www.gesa.com.
- Sterling Savings Bank, 2 E. Main St. Offers a Money Smart class two times a year, will do presentations at schools and elsewhere, works with local social service agencies. Customers can go in for overall financial reviews. Call 522-2024.
- Baker Boyer Bank, 7 W. Main St. Offers financial education on several levels, beginning with school, Money Smart classes and through social services. Customers and others can get individual financial counseling, from buying a first home to wealth management. The bank is rolling out a new, online budgeting program in March. Call 525-2000.
- Walla Walla Asset Building Coalition, 342 Catherine St., in the Blue Mountain Action Council office. Facilitates Money Smart class through Banner Bank, next course beginning late spring, open to all. Pre-registration is required. Call 529-4980.
- Walla Walla Community College -- IMPACT program, classes for those facing barriers to employment that include financial counseling. Office is also open to all for one-on-one budget management help and referrals. Call Deana York at 524-5166.