Financial Fitness

Jul 21, 2009

Community organizations around the Miami Valley are offering foreclosure counseling and financial literacy classes.  In Clark County, the foreclosure rate continues to rise and experts say it is likely to for the foreseeable future, WYSO's Juliet Fromholt has the story of what one Springfield organization is doing to educate people about their mortgages, their homes and their Financial fitness.

A quiet Springfield neighborhood is a great place for a family. Jamie Bowshier is a single father in his mid-30's. He says that there's something special his house.

"For me, it's a comfort thing. I've lived there for the last, probably, eight years now,and its just become my home. My kids like it there, I like it there. There are a lot of benefits to owning your place."

But like many people in the Miami Valley, Bowshier has suffered setbacks including divorce and reduced hours at work resulting in financial strain for him and his family. Soon he realized that he was facing the fact that he could lose his home to foreclosure. So he called his lender.

"It seems like every time I would call the mortgage company instead of getting loan officers I was getting customer service reps. And they always wanted to tell me 'you just have to catch up your payments.' They didn't really know what it was I had to do or who to put me into contact with," says Bowshier.

"It's Like a Fresh Start"

Bowshier wasn't able to reach anyone to get a solution right away so he turned to a woman named Kim Sprinkle.

Sprinkle is a foreclosure prevention counselor with the Neighborhood Housing Partnership of Greater Springfield, a Neighborworks organization that offers free Bowshier calls her office, the first thing she goes over with them is the documentation that they need to bring in.

"We have them bring in information that the lender is going to request - a couple months bank statements, pay stubs, hardship letter explaining their situation - a lot of people get hung up on that and they don't know what to write. So basically they put down what has happened to get them in that situation," says Sprinkle.

Once Sprinkle received Bowshier's paperwork, she was able to contact his lender and negotiate a work-out

"She's worked with the loan company and she's helped me to get an agreement with them to where I could actually catch up my payments and get everything to where I could actually the mortgage every month," says Bowshier.

Bowshier's work-out was one version of a lender-borrower negotiation that counselors such as Sprinkle can arrange if the borrower meets the requirements.

"They've been doing what's called a loan modification where they take the past due payments and move them to the end of the loan. Like say you're behind on eight payments, they'll just tack that on to the end. So it's kind of like a fresh start. People get back on track that way," says Sprinkle.

"There Are a Lot of Things That It Would Have Been Good to Know"

Kim Sprinkle helped Jamie Bowshier see things that were affecting his loan that he hadn't thought of before, such as the fact that it was co-signed by his spouse years ago. Bowshier realizes that there are many issues that he should have considered before owning a home.

"There are a lot of things that it would have been good to know as a first time home buyer that I really wasn't aware of, and I know there are classes that people can take for first time home buyers. I actually recommend that people do that because you can get into a lot of trouble buying a house and know not what you're doing - going into it blind - it makes it kind of rough," says Bowshier.

"The School of Hard Knocks"

There is a class in financial fitness held every Monday afternoon at the Clark County Department of Job and Family Services. Instructor Fred Blair teaches a curriculum that consists of financial planning, credit, savings, and taxes. The class is well attended by people from all walks of life and income brackets.

"Most of us have learned through the school of hard knocks. When you make a bad mistake with money, you say okay I know I'm doing that wrong. That's typically the training that most of us have had," says Blair.

Classes such as Blair's are designed to address many underlying issues which may prevent future financial trouble.

"The studies are that if someone gets into the classes prior to getting a loan, we're not seeing those people in foreclosure because they're getting all the education they need to know prior to. Because a lot of people walk into this blindsided - they have no clue what's going on," says Kim Sprinkle.

"You don't take into account that the pipes are going to leak or the water heater's going to go out - you've got to replace that, the roof will leak - you've got to replace that. The only thing you can say about rainy days or emergencies is they're going to happen. The way that you're prepared for them is what's going to make a difference," says Blair.

Both Fred Blair and Kim Sprinkle believe that financial planning classes which look at a family's or individual's financial situation as a whole are essential in addressing the foreclosure crisis in Clark County.