A City Hall committee released its first set of recommendations early last week to improve personal finance education among New Haven residents.
Members of the Financial Empowerment Commission discussed their plans for the city at a meeting on Nov. 3. According to a transcript of the meeting released by the FEC, the committee will set up a website within six months that will list financial planning resources available to residents. Within the next year, the committee plans to launch a financial empowerment center staffed by trained finance counselors.
Mayor Toni Harp created the committee in March of last year to allow New Haven residents to make more informed financial decisions, said city spokesman Laurence Grotheer. The 15 members that she chose come from varied professional backgrounds, from city alders and state senators to businesses CEOs, nonprofit executives and social service providers.
President of the Board of Alders Tyisha Walker, who serves on the FEC, said the variety of perspectives allows the committee to “approach problems holistically.”
Within the next half-year, the committee also plans to compile a list of government and non-government financial advice and assistance services available to residents, according to the transcript. It also states that the committee plans to develop a financial empowerment network of helpful organizations. In the long run, the committee aims to create a culture of financial empowerment in New Haven and address big-picture issues that undermine the ability of low-income residents to make informed financial decisions.
Walker said the discussion in the committee’s meetings has centered on those long-term goals. One of the major problems discussed was how to remove barriers that prevent people from becoming financially empowered, such as criminal records and bad credit. She added that she has worked on projects in her West River community that promote informed spending practices during the five years she has been an alder. The problem of financial under-education is therefore one she has worked on extensively.
“You have a lot of people who don’t know how important having good credit is,” Walker said. “When I graduated high school, every credit card company sent me applications, and a lot of people just fill them out.”
She added that many people don’t understand the long-term negative affects of such decisions.
Elm City residents also feel that improved personal finance education is sorely needed. Sean Senior, who lives in New Haven, explained that a lack of fiscal guidance has exacerbated the money problems that face many people he knows.
“A lot of people are in the struggle because they don’t know where to put their money,” Senior said. “The city needs a lot of help.”
Presley Serrano, who is also a New Haven resident, agreed with Senior, saying that many of his acquaintances don’t know what to do with their money or how to use it wisely. Both Senior and Serrano said they hadn’t used financial aid services offered by the city in the past, but would do so if they were more available and accessible.