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Consumer Advocacy for Survivors:
             Presented by the
    U.S. Department of Justice
Office on Violence Against Women
           In partnership with

     The Center for Survivor
      Agency and Justice
                Alexandria, VA
               January 16, 2008
  Consumer Advocacy
     for Survivors:
        Effective Personal
       Financial and Credit
       Advocacy Strategies


Katie VonDeLinde, MSW, LCSW
Redevelopment Opportunities for Women
REAP Institute                          2
Effective Personal Financial and Credit
     Advocacy Strategies: Agenda


•   ROW/REAP History
•   Impact of Economic Abuse
•   Financial Assessment
•   Visioning
•   Creating Cost of Living Plans
•   Credit Counseling
                                      3
     ROW/REAP Institute


• History of program

• Consortium building

• Growth and learning
                          4
                      Redevelopment Opportunities For Women, Inc. -
                         REAP the rewards of economic advocacy services

                               Row’s Economic Action Program
                                           (R.E.A.P)



                                        Financial Education
Individual Development Accounts                                          Follow-up counseling, advocacy

                                     •Emphasis on safety issues             Counseling and Crisis
    Matched savings accounts for:
                                     •Budgeting/credit counseling           Intervention Services
          •Home Purchases
                                     •Class and individual instruction      •Individual Counseling
            •Automobiles
                                     •Assessment and goal-setting           •Crisis Intervention
    •Career Enhancing Education
                                     •Culturally appropriate training       •Children’s Counseling
         •Child’s Education
                                     •Emphasis on brokering services        •Follow-up Services
                                     •Focus on empowerment                  •Link to resources
                                     •Follow-up support & advocacy          •Provide one on one
                                                                             financial information


                                            Literacy/ABE                                            5
    Philosophy of Economic
           Advocacy
• Belief that economic advocacy is our
  “responsibility” as lawyers and non-
  lawyer advocates
• Work with women without judgment and
  provide a supportive space
• Recognize and acknowledge power
  differences b/w woman and advocate

                                         6
     Understanding Woman-Defined
       Advocacy Lens in Practice

 •   What is it?
 •   How do we practice it?
 •   What are benefits and challenges?
 •   Why is it key to this work?



Worksheet 1: Woman Defined Advocacy
                                         7
                                Novice Model
              No rules              Expert


Many rules to many situations      Competence


                                   Advanced Beginner        Many rules to a situation


                                    Beg/ Beginner          1 rule to many situations


                                        Novice
                                                       1 rule to 1 situation




                                                                               8
          Financial Assessment
     – What makes it difficult to ask questions
       without looking for solutions?
     – What is the risk of asking questions just to
       ask? How do we find a balance?
     – How does asking the “right” questions help
       a woman find her own solution?



Worksheet 2: Assessment Questions
                                                 9
Why do economic advocacy?
 Stories of Economic Abuse
 • John and Marta refinanced their
   home for necessary home repairs
   and instead he used the money for
   his addiction.

 • The house has a hole in the ceiling
   and every time it rains his wife
   Marta gets sick from the mold.
Stories of Economic Abuse
• Charles spends hundreds of dollars a month
  on his personal wants, but does not give
  money to his wife of 25 years, who is
  disabled, to pay for adequate food, diabetes
  medication, nor her dental care.

• All of this makes Clara physically ill. Clara
  goes to food pantries when things are really
  bad and often goes without eating because
  of depression and low energy.
   Impact of Economics
“I would always want to take the kids, but at
that time, „How could I manage on my own
with the kids? How could I provide for
them?‟ I know that there was…you know,
funding available, but I would stay there
because he was the source of income and I
guess I felt I was dependant on him.”


                                       -Kara
Impact of Economics, cont.
 “A lot of times it‟s [economic dependence]
 why we stay because there‟s no way out.
 With four kids…I love my kids…where
 would I take them? I‟m not gonna live in a
 car. Where am I gonna go? They got to be
 in a good school district. They got to be
 able to go to school and get their education
 and all that.”
                                       -Kate
          Let‟s all practice!

ASSESSMENT

Break up into groups of 3
• 1- observer
• 1- participant (in the role of Jada)
• 1- advocate

Practice assessment for 5 minutes
Observer take notes                      14
Visioning: Safety Considerations

Both short-term goals and long-term plans
such as returning to school or finding a job
may increase a battering partner‟s violence.

 If they are no longer together, the partner
may stalk the woman and assault her
physically. It is important to discuss the
balance between achieving goals and staying
safe, and brainstorm ways of doing both.
                                               15
                         Visioning

 • Powerful process: builds hope and rapport.
 • Ask women, “Where do you see your life in 5
   years? What are your dreams for the future?”
 • Challenge women to think of personal goals,
   work, education, family, social, emotional etc.
 • What will they need to do financially to meet
   that vision? What are potential roadblocks?
   What are strategies to overcome roadblocks?
Worksheet 3: Visioning
                                                 16
   Personal Economic Planning:
     Thoughts to Remember
• Financial information can be very
  embarrassing and feel hopeless. It is our
  role to build hope and foster realistic
  expectations.

• We all have baggage around money
  issues that makes it difficult to talk about
  money.

• We have all made financial missteps.           17
   Personal Economic Planning:
   Thoughts to Remember, cont.
• Women are not perfect and sometimes make
  expensive financial mistakes- normalize their
  experience and encourage them to make informed
  choices now.

• Assist a woman after she makes mistakes; don’t
  make her suffer. The best way to learn is from our
  mistakes.

• Women often report feeling stupid for trusting a
  partner. Trusting an intimate partner around
  financial issues in a committed relationship is
  perfectly normal. It is her partner who has violated
  trust.                                             18
 Personal Financial Planning

• What is it?
• How is personal economic planning
  different and similar to budgeting?
• What kind of budgeting are you doing
  now?
• What kind of goal planning are you
  doing now?
                                         19
 Personal Economic Planning
           Defined
Personal economic plans are
women‟s comprehensive financial
vision and strategy for their life.
This includes an accurate financial
inventory including debts and
assets, and detailed spending
plan.

                                      20
    Personal Economic Planning:
            Challenges
• Talking about personal economic planning can be very
  challenging. Advocates need to be prepared to teach
  women with little or no resources in a respectful and
  productive manner.

• It may be tempting for the advocate to determine what
  is “safe” for the woman. Remember to brainstorm with
  each woman and respect her knowledge of her partner
  as she makes financial decisions.

• Women may choose to return to an abusive partner
  because of challenges with money. Safety plan with
  the woman, strategize with her around economic
  choices, and support her decisions.                  21
        Financial Inventory: Safety
             Considerations

• Returning home (either to their own or to their partners‟) or
  looking for information may put women at risk. If women
  have left their partners, it is important to discuss what
  financial documents they have with them, ways of safely
  retrieving the ones they do not have, or how to work without
  the documents.

• If the abusive partner controls the money, looking for
  financial information may jeopardize participants‟ safety. For
  example, some partners have set up ways of monitoring
  whether or not someone is investigating their finances.

                                                            22
              Assets Defined
Assets are anything you own that can be sold or “cashed
  in.” Examples range from bank accounts to personal
  belongings.

It‟s a good idea to:
• Keep a record of your assets
• Keep receipts of what you buy
• Take pictures of valuable assets
• Know the difference between depreciating (lose
    values) and appreciating (gain value) assets.

                                                      23
                    Asset Tracker
           Assets       Value                 Ownership
                                 Joint    Individual
  Radio               $20.00
                                 Joint    Individual
  Car                 $1500
                                 Joint    Individual


                                 Joint    Individual


                                 Joint    Individual


                                 Joint    Individual


  TOTAL:
                      1520.00
Worksheet 4                                               24
  Debts/Liabilities Defined


Debts or liabilities include any money
that you owe. Examples range from
mortgage payments to unpaid taxes.




                                         25
       Debts/Liabilities Tips

• If you need past records, contact the
  company.

• Whenever you speak to a customer
  representative, write down the person‟s
  name and/or badge/ID number.

• Always keep financial information, even
  if you cannot pay your bills now.
                                            26
                             Debt Tracker

   Company        Interest    Total   Minimum   Amount          Ownership
                   Rate      Amount   Monthly   you can
                                      Payment   pay
                                      $35.00    $10.00    Joint Individual
                                                          Authorized User
   Capital One   19%         675.00   ?         $         Joint Individual
                                                          Authorized User
                                                          Joint Individual
                                                          Authorized User

                                                          Joint Individual
                                                          Authorized User

                                                          Joint Individual
                                                          Authorized User



Worksheet 5
                                                                               27
           Debt Prioritization

• Reference: Consumer Skills For DV Survivors

• Secured debt vs. unsecured debt

• Research the information in your area

• Look at “universal default” issues

• These are guidelines; each woman’s situation is
  unique
                                             28
           Debt Reduction Planner
http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/debtplanner/debtplanner.jsp

•   Find out how long it will take to become debt free and how much you'll pay in
    interest by making the minimum monthly payments.

•   Determine how long it will take using any fixed payment of your choice.

•   Type in a date when you would like the debt all paid off. The debt planner will
    give you the amounts to pay in order to reach that goal.


Minimum Payment: When will I be debt free and how much will I ultimately pay?

Fixed Payment:     When will I be debt free if I pay_______ monthly?

I want to pay off my credit cards in           years and months
                                                                              29
          Debt Planner, cont.


Credit card: Balance:       APR:          Min. Monthly
Capital One $675.00         19%           $25.00



• By making minimum payments only, it will take you 3
  years and 9 months to pay off your credit cards.

• Based on your current combined balance of
  $675.00, you will pay a total of $249.81 in interest.   30
           Debt Planner, cont.

Credit card: Balance:       APR:          Monthly
Capital One $675.00         19%           $40.00

• If you pay $40.00 a month, it will take you 1 year and 8
    months to pay off your credit cards.

• Based on your current combined balance of $675.00,
   you will pay a total of $102.19 in interest

• Includes a monthly payment plan
                                                         31
            Debt Planner, cont

Credit card: Balance:       APR:          Monthly
Capital One $675.00         19%           ?

Pay off in 12 months
• If you pay $61.24 a month, it will take you 1 year to
  pay off your credit cards.

• Based on your current combined balance of $675.00,
   you will pay a total of $59.83 in interest             32
           Components of
         Cost of Living Plans

• Planned Expenses
  – Fixed
  – Changing
  – Occasional
• Emergency Expenses
• Spending Leak
• Income
  – TANF, Food Stamps, Paycheck, etc.
                                        33
     Cost of Living Plan: Safety
          Considerations

• Immediate needs and safety considerations (such as
  spending money on a hotel or plane ticket to get
  away from the abusive situation) may interfere with
  long-term goals and budgeting.

• Women may not have control over major expenses
  and spending. Brainstorm ways of increasing her
  income and control of her finances.



                                                    34
       Creating a Cost of Living Plan:
            Reverse Budgeting
   •   Step A: Track Expenses/Estimate Expenses
   •   Step B: Determine Monthly Expenses
   •   Step C: Current Income or Income Needed
   •   Step D: Increasing Income/Decreasing
                 expenses
                  » Employment (formal, informal), Subsidies
                  » Bartering
   • Step E: Make Plan
   • Step F: Review and Adjust
Worksheet 6: Reverse Budgeting, Worksheet 7: Cost of Living Plan
                                                                   35
             Reverse Budgeting
Step 1: Determine monthly expenses
         Example: $2000.00

Step 2: Subtract any additional consistent income
         Example: $200.00 in child support $2000-$200=$1800

Step 3: Multiply by 30% to estimate taxes
        Example: $1800 x .30=$540.00
                  $1800 + $540=$2340

Step 4: Determine annual income. Multiply monthly income by 12.
         Example: $2340 x 12=$28,080



                                                                  36
       Reverse Budgeting, cont.
Step 5: Determine weekly income.
         Example: $28,080/12=$540.00

Step 6: Determine how many hours she can/would like to work
         Example: 40 hours

Step 7: Determine hourly wage needed
         Example: $540/40=$13.50

Step 8: Look at current and anticipated income. Try to balance gaps.
   List ideas for increasing income or decreasing expenses (bartering,
   supplementing income, long term goals increasing training/education,
   asking for a raise, plugging spending leak etc.)

Great Job!
                                                                          37
                  Work in Pairs

  • Review Jada‟s example
  • Use Side 1 of budgeting sheet
  • Use reverse budgeting sheet-determine
    how much Jada will need to bring in
    with current expenses
  • Raise your hand if you have questions
    or get stuck
Worksheet 8: Part 1 & 2 Cost of Living Plan exercise   38
      Decreasing Expenses
Brainstorm ways to decrease expenses
  – Coupons, resale, checking price per ounce,
    planning meals, taking lunch, asking for help with
    school costs, etc. apply for government benefits,
    become aware of spending leaks, create a plan for
    their money, pay off revolving debt and minimizing
    the use of credit cards, etc.
  – Barter for goods and services
  – Build on what has worked already and strategize
    new ways


                                                    39
       Decreasing Expenses:
         Spending Leaks

WHERE DID THAT $5.00 GO?

Spending leaks are expenses that aren‟t
 planned in our budget but somehow the
 money slips away…

Examples from your life?
                                      40
        Spending Leak Example

 Spending      Cost/      Weekly cost    Monthly
 Leak          time       $3.50 x 4=     cost
 Latte         $3.50      $14.00         $14.00 x
                                         52/12=
                                         $60.66
                                         ($727.92)
 Alternative   Cost/      Weekly Cost    Monthly     Planned   Monthly
 Drink         time       $3.50 x 1=     cost        expense   Savings
 coffee at     $3.50      $3.50          $5.90 x     $25.56    $35.10
 home-latte    (latte)    $.40 x 6=      52/12 =               $421.20
 1x/week       $.40       $2.40          $25.56                /year
               (coffee)   Total: $5.90

Worksheet 9: Spending Leak                                               41
            Increasing Income

Increase income from formal employment
  –    Ask for a raise, work more hours, get a
      second job, change jobs

  – Take advanced classes, certification, go back
    to school

  – Apply for EITC, take less deductions so she
    has more to live on each month
                                                 42
    Increasing Income, cont.

Brainstorm ways to barter and patch income
  informally
  – Trade with neighbors, friends, mechanics, babysitters,
    landlords, etc PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE KEY
  – Rent for cleaning units/rehabbing the rental building
  – Babysitting for assisting older neighbor with
    housing/cleaning tasks
  – Transportation to and from work for ironing/hemming and
    laundry
  – Photography/artwork for car repairs
  – Employer to pay for advanced hair design classes in
    exchange for woman teaching the rest of the staff
                                                              43
      Increasing Income, cont.
Build on skill set and something the woman enjoys
   – What are her skills, knowledge, expertise? What
     does she enjoy doing that people might pay her
     for?


Patch current income with side jobs
   – Cash job with tips, baby sitting, shoveling
     driveways, cutting/braiding hair, organizing,
     planning, cleaning, tutoring, cooking, gardening,
     doing laundry, day sitter, putting together
     albums/scrapbooks, and selling homemade
     cookies, baskets and dog walking, personal
     assistant.                                          44
             Work in Pairs

• Look at Side 2 of budgeting sheet

• What can Jada do to decrease expenses?
  What are Jada‟s spending leaks?

• What can Jada do to increase income?
  Short-term? Long-term?
                                           45
      Saving Money Safely
***SAFETY PLAN **SAFETY PLAN**SAFETY PLAN***

  Save in a secret location and having a safety plan if
  money is found (women report a lot of creative
  places to hide their money)

  Skimming: Returning merchandise for cash,
  buying neighbors groceries, not disclosing mileage
  reimbursement, raise not included in paycheck

  Discuss pros and cons of taking money from joint
  savings accounts

  Identify allies that will send her money and help her
                                                      46
  save
    When Budgeting Isn‟t Enough:
  Finding Alternatives to Financial Hardship

Examples:

• Negotiate prior to breaking lease

• Counsel to avoid predatory lending on refinance,
  home purchase, credit cards, and car loans

• Refer to Consumer Credit Counseling or Bankruptcy
  Attorney if appropriate

• Assist her in finding good solutions to match her
  needs ( i.e. car repairs, cell phones, rental contracts,
  changing locks, furniture, apartments, medical bills, 47
  etc.)
      When Budgeting Isn‟t Enough:
              Advocacy in Difficult Times
• Find partners in the community that address financial
  concerns you are unable to meet and if possible have
  them come to your agency
• Recruit board members with key connections
• Help with the difficult financial cases in which women
  can‟t get started or complete on their own (you will learn
  a lot)
• Make a phone call, draft a letter, use your connections to
  open doors
• Support women regardless of whether or not she does
  what you think is best financially (i.e. getting a predatory
  loan, co-signing, not opening bills)
                                                             48
Questions? Thoughts?
       Ideas?




                       49
    Thank You!

Good Luck Planning!




                      50
    Consumer
    Advocacy:
Effective Credit Advocacy
        Strategies


                            51
       Understanding Credit

• What is Credit?
  – Borrow $$$ with a promise to repay


• Who would you give credit to?

• What things would you want to know about
  someone you were giving a loan to?

                                             52
                  Types of Credit

 •   Revolving
 •   Installment
 •   Secured
 •   Unsecured
 •   Traditional
 •   Non-traditional/alternative

Worksheet 10: Types of Credit
                                    53
    Importance of Credit Score
           Credit Affects Every Aspect of Our Lives

Housing
• Landlords pull credit reports; often deny or require large
  deposits for applicants with poor credit scores
• Traditional lenders will not give loans to individuals with
  poor credit and unresolved debt
• Predatory Lenders will give bad loans (high interest 22% vs.
  8%)

Employment
• Employers often pull credit reports prior to hiring staff
• All cash handling jobs and expensive products (ie Jewelry)
  require decent credit
• Some individuals are denied employment because of their
  credit score
                                                             54
           Importance of
         Credit Score, cont.
Premiums $$$$
• Higher Rates on Everything
• Insurance: Health, Homeowner’s & Car
• Loans: Small Business, Personal, Mortgage, Car,
  Credit Cards, etc.

Bottom Line
• Credit Score affects whether or not an Individual
  can build enduring assets or wealth for themselves
  and their children.


                                                 55
    Advantages of Using Credit

– Make purchases in an emergency

– It helps when you don‟t have cash

– It helps you to make purchases for large costly
  items

– Good credit will make it possible to borrow money
  in the future

– It allows you to cash checks
                                                      56
   Disadvantages of Using Credit

• If you can‟t repay, the lender can take court action

• If unable to make repayment or pay bills on time, it
  affects future ability to get credit

• Bad credit can make it hard to get housing
   – (rental or homeownership)

• You may want to spend more than you can afford

• Credit costs money (interest fees, etc.)

• When you buy things using credit, you take on a debt 57
          Understanding Credit Score

• Credit Score: snapshot of the contents of your credit
  report on the day the score was calculated.

• Objective formulas calculate contents of reports into a
  3 digit score so lenders can evaluate applications for
  credit in a faster, fairer and more consistent manner.

• Role of Credit Bureaus (Transunion, Experian,
  Equifax)
  Worksheet 11: Understanding Credit Score
                                                      58
                The 3 Major Credit Bureaus
New Federal Law Requires Consumers have access to credit file from each bureau for free annually.
               www.annualcreditreport.com:            must pay for score


                            Equifax                     Experian             Trans Union

                       P.O. Box 740241               P.O. Box 2104           P.O. Box 6790
      Address            Atlanta, GA                   Allen, TX             Fullerton, CA
                         30374-0241                      75013               92834

       Order
                                                   1-888-EXPERIAN
       Credit          1-800-685-1111                                        1-800-916-8800
                                                      (397-3742)
       Report


       Report
                       1-800-525-6285              1-888-EXPERIAN            1-800-680-7289
       Fraud
                                                                                            59
 What Determines Your Credit Score
    and Tips on Building Score

                       Factors Determing Credit Score


                                      Mix of Credit
                                          10%


                          New Accts
                             10%                             On-Time Pay History
                                                                    35%




               Length of Accounts
                      15%




                                            Amount of Debt
                                                30%




Worksheet 12
                                                                                   60
Credit Activity

    3 volunteers please
                          61
A Good Credit Score Can Save an Individual
  Hundreds and Thousands of Dollars!!!
Credit Score directly affects their rates that you get on all loan products

Individuals often refuse to pay off debt on their credit report for good and
   bad reasons

By refusing to pay off debt (ie $4000) on their credit report they pay
  thousands more in interest on every loan and other premium

Example: Car Loan
Credit Score Loan Amt    Int. Rate Time Payment Interest     Total Price
720          15,000        6.5% 60 m $293       $2609           $17,609

615         15,000        14%     60m    $349      $5941        $20,941

499         15,000        24%     60m     $431     $10,891      $25,891
                                                                     62
      How to Repair Credit
       P/LO’S, Collections, Civil Judgments
 Attack One At A Time
 Use Tax Returns, Gifts, Bonuses & Raises

Specific Options:
1. Contact Creditor: Phone or Mail
2. Determine what you can pay and then
   make payment offer:
     a. Pay in full - 100%
     b. Offer Settlement in Full - 35% to 75%
     c. Make monthly payment arrangements

3. Document Properly                            63
       How to Build Credit
• Review
  – Build Traditional Credit
     • (see Worksheet – how to build credit score)


  – Build Alternative Credit
     • Document pay history for utilities, rent, non-
       traditional loans
     • Document with credit reference letters/ rent
       receipts

                                                        64
     How to Document Properly
1)   Get offer in writing: (keep a copy)

2)   Pay with a cashiers check or postal money orders: (never
     cash & keep a copy)

3)   In Memo Section: Write acct #‟s on cashier‟s check +
     payment option (pd in full or settled in full).

4)   Ask creditor to send you a settlement letter showing a zero
     balance (keep copy)

5)   Send copies with a dispute letter to all credit bureaus and
     ask accts to be updated. (your score should go up by the 65
     next month)
Short Break!



               66
             $ Credit Facts $
• Collection Accts stay on report- 7 years from last
  activity
• Accts paid as agreed remain up to 10 years from
  date filed
• Public Records:
• Bankruptcy: Chapter 7 &11- 10yrs
• Unpaid Tax Liens- remain indefinitely
• Paid tax leans remain up to 7 years from date
  released
• Length of time creditors can collect varies by state.
  (avg.10 years)
                                                          67
           Credit Freeze
• More permanent solution for identity theft
• Most states have laws; see
  www.financialprivacynow.org
• All major bureaus have programs; need
  to freeze all 3 bureaus to be effective
• Usually costs money to place freeze,
  temporarily lift, or permanently remove
  freeze if you have NOT been a victim of
  identity theft
                                          68
         Reading Credit Reports
• Personal Information
• Credit History:
   – Open /closed accts & collections
   – pay history, open/close dates
   – 30,60,90 days late
• Adverse Summary
   – Optional summary of negative items
• Inquiries
   – Hard and soft
• Public Records
• Consumer Statement
• Credit Score

                                          69
           Correcting Errors on
             Credit Reports
 Correct Personal Information
 Duplicate information ( appearance more than 1 x)
 Uninvited Inquiries
 Length of Inquiries (more than 2 yrs)
 Length of delinquency (more than 7 yrs)
 Length of bankruptcy (more than 10 yrs)
 Unfamiliar Accounts (Dispute)
 Outdated Collection Accounts ( 7 years)
                                                      70
         Reading Credit Reports

• Review Example Credit Report
• Safety Considerations
   – Emotional
   – Pulling credit report safely



Worksheet 13 : Experian Credit Report example
                                                71
       Credit Advocacy: Basics
• Understand that you cannot know everything about credit, the
  rules and policies continue to change.

• Commit to continue to learning, reading, making friends and
  mentors in the credit world!

• Know that you will make mistakes and that it is okay to make
  mistakes- learn from them.

• Learn by doing (assisting women). The process is the best
  teacher.

• Always use safety planning and safety questions when doing
  this work.
                                                         72
    Credit Advocacy: Basics, cont.
•Review Credit Report- assist her in correcting mistakes/ making disputes
                                             and placing fraud alerts on her report.


•Discuss the process of paying off collectors- and building
positive credit emphasize documentation over and over
(settlement offers, payment arrangements, etc)

•Assist women in prioritizing what debts to pay first
        Book: Consumer Skills for Survivors of Domestic Violence
        One at a time
        Secured vs. Non secured
        Who can she negotiate the best deal with


•Create a credit action plan (Worksheet 14)
        It can be future oriented-she can begin to save $10 per month towards debt
        and start paying in the future. Shows progress toward a goal.          73
           Credit Decisions for Safety:
                   For women staying or leaving

•   If safe, the woman can try to remove herself from joint
    credit accounts or she can close accounts. Also she can
    remove her partner as an authorized user on her
    accounts.

•   Inform utility companies if a woman leaves her
    home/apartment.

•   If a woman stays she can think about whether she wants
    her name on the utility bills, lease. Discuss pros and
    cons and whether it really is feasible.

•   Discuss the pros and cons of applying for new credit with
    abuser.                                               74
             Avoiding Pitfalls of
      Predatory Lenders & Credit Abuse
•Discuss co-signing pros and cons (ie. credit score, debt to
income ratio, and the responsibility of having to take on the
payment if the co-signee defaults).

•Discuss the importance of having open lines of credit in her
name prior to leaving or even if she choose to say- for safety
and access to getting her needs met.

• She can gather credit reference letters – rent, utilities, etc. for
alternative credit when applying for housing. If she has none-
talk about ways to build them and why it‟s important.

                                                                75
 Avoiding Pitfalls of Predatory Lenders &
           Credit Abuse, cont.
• Place fraud alerts on her credit report if credit abuse has
  occurred or she anticipates it. Renew every 90 days or 7 years
  if proof that she is a victim of identity theft.

• Discuss pros and cons of credit freeze.

• Discuss predatory lending opportunists: credit cards, debt
  consolidation, title loans, mortgage scams etc. Provide
  education materials on predatory lending signs.

• Refer to Predatory Lending Intervention Specialists in
  community, if you believe a woman has received a predatory
  mortgage loan. (Make friends with predatory lending intervention
  programs)

                                                                76
     Other Credit Advocacy Strategies

• Help women access their credit reports- if safe
  (use appropriate address when applying) and
  provide counseling
• Cease Communication Letters- Stop the
  Harassment of Collectors (see Worksheet 15)

• Discuss the importance of avoiding breaking lease
  without providing a forwarding address and paying
  the last month‟s rent (may affect credit report and
  likely to affect housing options in the future).
 Worksheet 15: Cease Communications
                                                    77
 Other Credit Advocacy Strategies, cont.

• Discuss the importance of going to court, if safe, to fend
  off civil judgments. Help her prepare. Call friend at Legal
  Aid for suggestions. (i.e. Angela‟s story: Conflict of
  Judgments)

• Discuss that economic abuse can occur with family
  members/friends especially in times of financial crisis (i.e.
  loans, utilities, tickets, cell phone, credit cards & credit
  abuse).

• Always remember, responding quickly and in writing is
  usually best when making a dispute.

                                                            78
        Cultural Considerations

• Consider Class, Age, Ethnicity, Race, Color,
  Sexual Orientation, Status.

• Literacy for all is important. Translation and
  Interpretation is a must when working with
  Limited English Speakers. Make sure those
  that are not literate have ability to benefit from
  your services. Advocate will need to provide
  additional assistance with disputes, reading
  important documents, etc.
                                                   79
        Cultural Considerations
• Examine how your (status, privilege, values) may
  impact your recommendations, judgments and
  advocacy with women. Constant Work!

• People of color, poor people and immigrants have
  often been historically locked out of fair banking,
  access to fair credit, employment protections, or
  assets to fall back on.

• Oppressed groups are target market for very lucrative
  predatory lenders. Those without legal working
  status may have opportunities and strategies for
  survival. Distrust may be warranted.

                                                        80
        Cultural Considerations
• Must take your time and be patient. Begin where the
  woman is and taking the time to teach her instead of
  doing it for her because it‟s faster.

• Be aware and respect expectations within
  families/communities that may value family/community
  progress over individual progress (example: saving
  circles).

• Some new Americans are not familiar with credit and
  have religious beliefs against earning interest or
  borrowing money.


                                                         81
     Your Role as an Advocate

• Provide Credit Education: through discussions,
  pamphlets, classes. Contact your Attorney
  Generals Office and Fannie Mae. Order
  brochures on a wide range of financial topics.

• Help Create Credit Action Plans: simple or
  complex

                                               82
    Your Role as an Advocate

• Make contacts, ask for favors, write letters of support,
• Write an affidavit to IRS, help her write professional
  letters (sit once together and have her do it on her
  own next time) etc.
• Provide Encouragement and Support
• Help her Keep this in Perspective: Safety before
  Credit. We are not our credit scores

Worksheets 16 and 17
                                                           83
          Implementation
• How will you implement/increase your
  individual economic advocacy?
• What are some techniques to add
  economic advocacy? When?
• Other ideas?



                                         84
              Thank you!


• Please contact me with questions,
  ideas, concerns:
Katie VonDeLinde
kvondelinde@row-stl.org
314.588.8300 office
314.588-0676 fax
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