Apr 29, 2022 - News

Local nonprofit helping transform lives through financial literacy

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

In 2018, India was jobless, homeless and doing anything she could to turn things around. Today, her credit score is in the 700s and she’s saving up to buy a house.

She credits the local nonprofit Common Wealth Charlotte for her success. “It’s been like a holistic blessing for me,” says India.

Backstory: India moved to Charlotte from Cleveland, Ohio in 2016 shortly after her dad died. “I felt like I needed to break free and do something new,” she told me. She resigned after working for 10 years at the Cleveland Clinic, secured a job and roommate in Charlotte, and said, “I’m headed to the Carolinas.”

  • Things took a turn for India when her contract position expired and she couldn’t pay her rent or bills anymore. She ended up living out of her car and taking showers at the gym. “I would go to Starbucks every day and search [for jobs],” she said.

Why it matters: India’s story is not unique. In 2019, 40% of Americans were just one missed paycheck away from poverty, according to a report released at the time by the economic advocacy group Prosperity Now. That was before the pandemic left millions of people without jobs and created global economic pitfalls.

  • According to a report by LendingClub, at the start of 2022, 64% of the U.S. population was living paycheck to paycheck.

“If you’re making $1,600 to $1,700 a month, you’re barely making enough money for rent. Then you have to pay for food, transportation, childcare,” Amy Jacobs, Common Wealth Charlotte’s Chief Opportunity Officer, explains. 

The big picture: In a recent survey of Axios Charlotte readers, nearly half (45%) of respondents said they don’t budget.

  • April is financial literacy month. Budgeting is a way to keep track of how much you can spend on your needs and how much you have leftover for the things you want.

The other side: There are bigger, systemic, issues failing the larger population. Organizations like Common Wealth Charlotte offer solutions, but we still need systemic solutions to poverty as well.

How it works: Common Wealth Charlotte helps people who are employed but still have a hard time making ends meet. The organization offers finance workshops, 0% interest loans, and pairs people with financial advisors and counselors.

  • Their goal is to reframe mindsets when it comes to saving money — they offer saving tips, credit courses, and work to create plans to make financial goals a reality.
  • All services are free.
  • “Our counselors are trauma-informed specialists,” explains Jacobs, adding that many of their clients have experienced a lifetime of poverty.
  • Yes, but: You don’t have to come from generational poverty, or even be low-income to meet with one of their financial officers.

What they’re saying: India says it wasn’t easy for her to ask for help at first. “I was embarrassed — that I had moved, that I had given up my good life, my good job, to come to a city where I had no idea what I was going to face and I was in that position.”

  • Since being introduced to Common Wealth Charlotte, India has taken workshops on credit, savings, home buying, insurance, and life insurance.
  • “They’ve given me tools to where I can regain my livelihood and never lose it,” she said.

Editors note: India’s last name was concealed at her request.

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