Planting the Seeds of Financial Independence

Braudilia MendesToday, the NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC)  launched the Effective Money Management program to provide one-on-one financial coaching and information about banking products to qualified low- and moderate-income individuals in the Washington, D.C. area.

Participants will enroll in a five-week course and meet one-on-one with financial coaches provided through LEDC. The program focuses on increasing knowledge and developing skills in budgeting, banking services, establishing and maintaining credit, savings, insurance, and protecting one’s assets. Read the inspiring story of Braudilia Mendes, an aspiring small business owner who has benefited from LEDC's continued commitment to providing financial education to all of its clients.

The kernels of ideas for starting a business, buying a house, or organizing a budget are planted long before a person decides he or she needs to take action. For Braudilia Mendes, what she didn’t realize was that she needed to take control of her credit before she could position herself well to make her dream of starting a daycare a reality. 

“I needed to start to budget my money differently,” Braudilia says.

Thanks to LEDC’s focus on providing financial education as a key piece of its comprehensive approach to community-based economic development, Braudilia says she feels confident challenging and resolving debt that appears in her credit report. 

By working with LEDC to break down concepts like credit and budgeting into manageable steps identified in a personalized financial action plan, she now has a new relationship with her once mysterious credit score. 

"I check my reports for outstanding debt," says Braudilia, whose score has increased by 50 points since coming to LEDC. “When using my credit card, I use it to pay for my phone, to buy gas, and supplies. I use the credit card for the very basics.”

Since 2011, LEDC has worked with key partners including Neighborworks America, Citi, and the Aspen Institute to integrate financial capability training across its programs. By combining financial education and coaching with tools that allow participants to chart their progress, LEDC staff is helping Latinos and other DC-area residents move forward on the road to financial independence. LEDC's latest partnership with NCLR is yet another tool in the financial education toolbox available to DC-area residents. 

“In the United States, everyone is obliged to walk through the ‘credit door,’” says LEDC Financial Capability Coordinator Mattias Kraemer. “We empower clients to take the reins of their credit reports and help them understand that these reports are a basic indication of financial health and trustworthiness.”  

While hundreds of participants have attended LEDC’s Credit Building 101 workshops, LEDC has connected more than 30 aspiring small business owners with a secured credit card product to strengthen their credit. Of the nine individuals who received one-on-one financial coaching and have used the card for at least 6 months, six have increased their scores on average by 80 points. 

With a new perspective on her finances, Braudilia is now just one month away from opening up a daycare, Curious Minds or Mentes Curiosas, in the Petworth neighborhood of the District. Braudilia hopes that her children will follow in her example and know the importance of credit. 

"What I have realized is that in this country what opens the doors is your credit," Braudilia says.