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Letitia Newman taught her family a few lessons in next-level finances thanks to several financial literacy classes she attended, including one most recently at the Chase branch in Skyland Town Center.

“When my children were 13 years old, I got them their own bank accounts,” said Newman, a Ballou Senior High School graduate, who went on to Prince George’s Community College, where she earned a degree in sociology. “It was important to teach them [saving and building good credit] because if we don’t know, we don’t do.”

Newman, who lives in Ward 8 and works as an outreach worker for the National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens (NAARC), knew the financial literacy basics, but she decided to take it up a notch. Through Chase she took a three-session course titled “Money Management, Credit, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.” One tip she learned was to open multiple bank accounts and separate a savings fund from an emergency fund.

“What I learned in my financial literacy course is that anything can be saved. Instead of buying lunch or eating out at restaurants every day, pack your lunch three times a week. Right there, you could save about $30 for just one week,” Newman said. “Do you really need that soda for $1.25 from the vending machine? Every little amount could be saved. That is why digital banking is something that’s really good, because you’re able to track your spending and savings with every account that you own.”

Newman has been using digital banking for years and even downloaded the Chase app onto her mother’s phone “I got my mom hooked on digital banking,” Newman said. “She loves it because it’s super easy!” Her mom now has a better understanding on how to track her spending and savings, and does her banking from anywhere at any time using the app.

Chase Managing Director Nicole Sanchez says customers appreciate the one-stop-shopping experience the Chase mobile app offers — from depositing checks and paying bills to checking account balances and receiving account alerts.

“Simply put, digital banking makes it easier to take control of your finances and improve your financial health,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez offers tips for improving financial health:

1. Create a budget — Carefully consider your income and expenses, your spending and savings habits and modify as necessary. A Budget Worksheet can help you figure out your finances and show you places where you can turn spending into savings.
2. Set a savings goal — Set realistic goals. Look at your income and spending habits, and find the little extras that you can cut back on, such as eating out for lunch or dinner on a weekly basis, or purchasing a soda or snack from the vending machine.
3. Build a three-month reserve — Set money aside until you have at least three months of living expenses in an emergency account fund. That should be enough to cover your rent or a mortgage, utilities, debts, food, etc. for three months, at least.
4. Achieve and maintain good credit — Having strong credit can make it easier to get a loan while also determining the rates you pay and, ultimately, what financial options are available to you. Good credit can lead to significant financial savings — the higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate.
5. Be prepared for emergencies — The important thing is to get into the habit of saving for an emergency, because one day it will happen and you’ll be grateful you planned ahead.

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Even before COVID-19, 40 percent of Americans did not have enough money saved for a $400 emergency. And the pandemic has affected us all in profound ways — about half the population in the U.S. is experiencing financial hardships, Chase financial experts found.

According to a recent survey, while most people know it’s important to save, fewer are confident in their ability to do it. Through the Chase Mobile app, consumers can improve overall financial health using features, including: Credit Journey, which helps you get instant access to their credit score and gain an understanding about how they can improve it; Autosave, which automatically transfers money to a savings account, regardless of amount; Budget:, which helps you set a budget, track and adjust day-to-day spending; and Snapshot, which provides easy-to-digest daily insights into your everyday spending, saving, earning and more. The app is designed to improve your relationship with your cash by helping you maximize your financial planning and saving.

“The “Contactless Payments” feature has been particularly popular during the pandemic because it allows “peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, like Zelle,” Sanchez said.

The Chase Skyland branch will be holding free virtual financial health classes the second Monday of each month, and the fourth Friday of each month. The next Financial Freedom Friday course will be taught on Sept. 24.

“When I was in high school, they taught us a little bit about banking but not too much,” Newman said. “How your credit score works was one of the most beneficial things I learned during these money management classes,” she said. “Having a good credit score is a way of life.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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