In a Nutshell: Financial literacy is lacking in the traditional education system, contributing to the number of Americans who learn about money management only after they’re already in debt. Following a 2017 merger with Money Management International, Clearpoint is part of the largest, full-service nonprofit credit counseling agency in the United States. The company focuses on education, providing courses and workshops that cover a range of financial topics. Counselors are available online, over the phone, and in person, providing expertise on topics from student loan debt management and general debt counseling to buying a home and bankruptcy.
Where does your money go when you deposit it into the bank? Does it go to work for you, earning more money for your future, or does it just sit there and wait for the moment it will be withdrawn and handed over to someone else?
Many people aren’t aware of what actually happens to their money when it’s not in their hands. Financial literacy is not only a matter of making more money and growing your savings account balance, but it’s also about finding new and creative ways to make each dollar work toward repaying debts and building a future nest egg.
Recent studies have found that 70% of Americans can’t answer basic financial literacy questions. However, it’s not always the fault of the test taker. Throughout our childhood, we go to school to learn many topics and take countless tests and quizzes meant to gauge our intelligence and memory. The goal is to get a good job and make a great living. Rarely, though, are we taught how to manage that living once it’s been earned.
In January of 2017, Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions and Money Management International merged to become the largest nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency in the country.
While Clearpoint has offered counseling and debt management services since its first office opened in Atlanta in 1964, the post-merger company has strengthened its offerings. The organization’s core intention is to help clients weather financial storms through education, so that mistakes are never made more than once.
With partnerships in place with many Southeastern businesses and communities that host workshops and classes on financial literacy, Clearpoint has an expansive network of counselors that have provided aid and education for more than five decades. In the last 10 years, the company has created Financial Literacy Centers in Miami and Atlanta, funded college programs to promote income awareness, and helped create numerous opportunities for consumers trapped in varying amounts of debt.
On top of its educational offerings, Clearpoint also has services like Military Connect, a service for veterans and their families to help re-establish themselves when they return home from active duty. Student loan counseling, housing programs, and mandatory bankruptcy counseling programs are also available to consumers in need.
All of the services are rendered with the intent of not only solving the problems, but providing the community education and outreach that will instill good habits in customers so that problems never recur.
More Than Half of Clearpoint’s HCFE Customers Build Emergency Savings and Increase Financial Understanding
In 2012, Clearpoint opened the Hispanic Center for Financial Excellence (HCFE) in Atlanta. Two years later, the doors opened to the HCFE in Miami. At either location, advisors meet with clients one-on-one to discuss their needs, gain a clear understanding of their current financial situation, identify goals, and establish personalized action plans. Advisors also conduct group classes on topics tailored to meet the needs of the Hispanic community at different life stages, and in a culturally welcoming environment.
“The guidance that we’ve received from the HCFE has helped open doors for us,” said Blanca Andrade, an HCFE client. “By taking the recommended actions, we have started to reach our financial goals.”
According to Clearpoint, two-thirds of HCFE clients begin regularly contributing to an emergency savings goal. These clients also report an increased understanding of the financial system through the guidance they receive.
In 2016, Clearpoint announced the creation of the Smart Scholars program at Atlanta Technical College, which includes the Graduating with Cents workshop that helps soon-to-be graduates understand their finances before heading into the workforce.
Clearpoint’s Programs are Tailored For All Ages and Stages of the Financial Journey
Clearpoint has a variety of educational programs to match almost any financial need consumers may have. Among them are credit counseling and a regularly changing slate of workshops that touch on different topics of interest.
For most Americans, though, buying a home will be the biggest financial decision they ever make. All of the fine print, inspections, contracts, deposits, and other paperwork required can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. Lawyers and real estate agents may have vast experience with these things, but the average consumer does not.
The company offers a Homebuyer Counseling and Education program that helps guide customers from the first stages of shopping for a home to the final signature at closing. The program covers the basics of preparing your finances and credit report for mortgage underwriting, as well as making an offer for and negotiating the price of a home.
The initial homebuyer counseling program can be completed online through a two-hour course or over the phone via a one-hour counseling call. First-time homebuyers have a more comprehensive option with the Essentials for Buying Your First Home. The six-hour online course covers topics like preparing your credit for the mortgage process and determining an affordable home price, to organizing your finances and preparing for successful long-term homeownership.
For consumers with an existing debt load that is too much to bear, a fresh start may be appealing, but the organization knows that bankruptcy should be the last resort. Clearpoint recommends its Debt Management Program to anyone considering bankruptcy as an option. If it truly is the only way out, however, the company offers a full slate of counseling options for guiding consumers through the bankruptcy process.
US Bankruptcy Code requires consumers filing for bankruptcy to complete two forms of credit counseling, called pre-bankruptcy credit counseling (taken first) and pre-discharge debtor education (taken second). Clearpoint provides both types of counseling. The sessions are offered online and at your own pace.
While the courses provide the certificates required by the courts, they are also designed to guide you through the process smoothly. Courses also help consumers to establish the foundational knowledge necessary to take advantage of the fresh start, helping them rebuild their credit with confidence.
Resources Include Free Financial Courses and Calculators
Along your journey to financial independence, you might find yourself in need of tools and primers to brush up on your newfound know-how. Clearpoint’s resources collection is a great place to start in bolstering your financial knowledge base.
The nonprofit’s list of tools includes a monthly budget calculator that helps you remain within your target spending limits, while showing you exactly how much money you have to sock away into savings after the bills are paid. The debt payoff table is a useful tool for planning current and future payments, while setting realistic goals for getting out of debt.
If you’re ahead on your bills, making mortgage payments biweekly instead of once a month can save you thousands in interest and cut your debt time down substantially. There’s even a calculator to show how much you can save if you use this tactic. Other calculators help to determine the true cost of major purchases, as well as provide aids to better budget your income and expenses.
To help those who cannot attend workshops in the Southeast, the organization created Clearpoint University, an online portal featuring financial classes, planning tools, personal journals, and record-keeping practice for consumers looking to learn how to better budget their money. Additionally, Clearpoint’s blog regularly covers topics of interest for budgeting and growing your savings while eliminating debt for good.
It’s Never Too Late to Learn Good Financial Habits
Bad habits can be difficult to break — but good habits can last a lifetime. While it can be a challenge to turn the bad habits into good ones, often all you need is the right knowledge and guidance to make that transition.
Clearpoint’s counseling programs are designed to do just that. While they offer an array of services for consumers of all financial needs, these programs are rooted in the company’s belief that education is the key that’s needed to unlock a secure future.
The company’s programs are tailored for all ages and needs, with college programs for planning for the future and managing student loan debt, all the way to homebuying with retirement in mind.
Thousands of clients work everyday to better their future under Clearpoint’s tutelage. Financial freedom isn’t achieved overnight, but rather through hard work, determination, and careful planning.