UF helps Duval residents get second chance at financial health

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If your financial history includes bounced checks or overdrawn funds, it can be very difficult to open an account with a new bank or credit union.

At the same time, lack of access to traditional financial institutions makes it harder to save money and practice other good financial habits, says Natasha Parks, Duval County family and consumer sciences agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

Parks oversees the UF/IFAS Extension Fresh Start program, which gives Duval County residents a second chance to get their finances back on track and develop healthier financial patterns. At the end of the course, those who pass a financial management test earn a certificate to open an account with a bank or credit union participating in the Fresh Start program, Parks said.

At a recent session, all 30 attendees walked away with a certificate. The next class is set for May 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UF/IFAS Extension Duval County office, 1010 N. McDuff Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32254.

“My husband and I own a small business, and I do the books,” said Sharon Whitt as she left the class. “Now I want him to come to this class, too, so he can learn what I’ve learned.”

For Latron Nelms, Fresh Start helped him do more than just qualify for a bank account. “It taught me how to manage my money—a better way of living,” he said.

Fresh Start covers the basics of financial management, from creating a spending plan to preventing identify theft. Attendees also get hands on practice balancing a check book and mapping out a personal budget.

“The goal is to help people make a habit of knowing where their money is going,” Parks said. “Not being aware is what can get you in trouble with a bank or become the victim of fraud.”

For example, using a calendar to track bills can help many people stay vigilant, Parks said. “Put that calendar on your refrigerator, and now every time you go to get something to eat, you get a visual reminder that car insurance is due or the mortgage payment is coming up,” she said.

Those who prefer digital to analogue can choose from several free apps that give users real-time reminders and transaction alerts, Parks said. Or, if swiping a credit card doesn’t feel like spending real money, setting aside envelopes of cash for different expenses can prevent overspending, she said.

Whatever the method, staying on top of your money is the key to financial health, and to financial institutions, Parks said.

Fresh Start classes are held 10 times a year. For more information, contact Natasha Parks at 904-255-7450 or nparks@ufl.edu.

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UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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