October 8, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

Saving money often is not foremost on people’s minds, but a new program seeks to change that and help people build wealth.

Already, some 60 people in the Daviess County area have become savers thanks to this program called “Owensboro Saves.” The goal is to have 300 new savers a year.

Owensboro Saves is part of America Saves, a program that began in Cleveland, Ohio and has spread across the nation. Owensboro is the first city campaign in Kentucky and is organized by a coalition of community leaders, said Suzanne Badenhop, a University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service financial management specialist and state contact for the program.

“The whole purpose of the program is to encourage people to build wealth,” she said. “This means saving and reducing debt. Financial stress causes more lost time on the job than any other kind of stress.”

The program is very simple, Badenhop said. Speakers go into a business and conduct motivational workshops to encourage people to save. Local financial institutions set up special savings accounts for people who become savers through the program. They also receive wealth coaches to help encourage them to set and reach savings goals.

Owensboro’s program, which began as a pilot last fall, sponsored a meeting last week with businesses, financial institutions and civic leaders to kick-off the new initiative.

Deborah Williams, a vice president and regional community reinvestment officer for National City Bank, said the bank began the program because it encourages savings and can be used by people with low and moderate incomes.

“Those are probably the individuals that are not saving the way we would like to see people save,” she said. “That is the role I have at the bank. I try to be an outreach - a counselor – whatever I can to help low and moderate income individuals.”

The program is available to anyone, and provides free money-saving products at three local financial institutions. Less money is needed to open a savings account through this program than the normal minimum requirements.

How much a person saves is up to them. Financial records are kept confidential.

Williams noted that in the United States many people are saving only about 2 percent of their annual income while in other countries people are saving up to 28 percent.

“We think that the Saves program will help narrow that gap, as well as help people to save for specific goals,” she said.

Martha Lee, Daviess County Extension agent for family and consumer science, is a wealth coach for the program.

“It encourages people to take charge of their own financial picture,” she said.

For more information on Owensboro Saves call Lee at 270-685-8480 or Badenhop at 859-257-1812. Additional information about America Saves can be found on the Internet at www.americasaves.org.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Suzanne Badenhop, 859-257-1812