It takes a lot to become a Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County homeowner.
Following a thorough vetting process, future homeowners commit to working 200-plus volunteer hours and attending 17 homeownership classes. The classes cover everything from home DIY to fire safety, with five of the classes centered around financial literacy.
Wells Fargo has led Habitat Orlando & Osceola’s finance classes since April 2018. These tutorials cover everything from budgeting to identity protection.
“It’s our duty to provide financial education and tools, especially to the underserved community,” said Candice Simmons, a community relations senior consultant at Wells Fargo. “People can’t change their financial path if they don’t know how.”
Homeownership is just the first piece to financial prosperity, Simmons said. These classes give future homeowners the money skills to sustain homeownership – and pass down their knowledge to their own children and grandchildren.
“Getting into a home is a blessing, but it is a huge responsibility,” Simmons said.
April is financial literacy month – a time to look at our finances and practices. Simmons shared a few ways to determine your own financial health based in part on tips from our homeowner classes.
Meet with a banker
Simmons relates banking to the health industry. When ill, you can only do self-help for so long before a professional needs to step in. Likewise, a personal banker can provide more effective guidance if you’re faced with a money issue or question.
Go to your bank, Simmons advised, and get a full financial review. Discuss your goals with a banker – and receive advice tailored to you.
If meeting with a banker feels overwhelming, visit HandsOnBanking.org to familiarize yourself on a variety of banking topics such as investing, retirement planning, and budgeting.
Create a budget
You don’t need to be a millionaire to create your own budget, Simmons said. A budget is based around your own life.
“If you’re going to try to accomplish anything financially – a home, a vacation – until you clearly understand where the money is going, you can’t plan,” Simmons said.
If Excel sounds daunting, grab a pen and paper. Outline your income – every side job, part-time gig, etc. Then write down your expenses.
At Habitat, budgeting takes up two classes. Homeowners outline their own budget with a worksheet in the first class. Most don’t have a budget – leading to a few ”aha” moments, Simmons said.
“They finish the budget and then realize ‘I spend more than what I have,’” Simmons said. “’Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul’ is what my grandmother called it.”
Fear of realizations like this sometimes keeps people from making a budget or looking into their credit, Simmons said.
“All of that will rear its ugly head eventually,” she said. “Do the budget and clearly know what your financial picture is.”
Understand your credit
Credit, or the ability to borrow money from a bank for goods, is extremely important – especially as a homeowner. A well-established savings account paired with good credit can help homeowners handle costly emergencies.
Consistently paying bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and only applying for only necessary credit accounts are a few ways to improve your credit score.
Never feel like you’re stuck with your credit score, Simmons said – you can rebuild it.
Hopefully, these suggestions gave you a basis to look at your own financial health. For Habitat Orlando & Osceola future homeowners, there’s a sense of urgency to learn during the financial classes, Simmons said. Homeownership isn’t just attainable now, but often just a year or so in the making for them.
“It doesn’t seem like that untouched dream anymore,” Simmons said.
Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County’s future homeowner classes are made possible through donations and other support. Learn more about how you can help at HabitatOrlandoOsceola.org/Get-Involved.