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VOL. 130 | NO. 152 | Thursday, August 6, 2015

Baby Budget

Village or no, women learn it takes a lot of money to raise a child

By Don Wade

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About $245,000. That’s the estimated cost for raising one child from birth through age 18.

A Step Ahead director of community outreach Belinda Simpson with outreach intern Ingram Stovall, left, who is a grant recipient and senior at Murray State University.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

And that figure surprised young women who attended a recent workshop funded by a grant from GiVE 365, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ dollar-a-day philanthropy program.

The grant, for $5,907, is for A Step Ahead Foundation, in collaboration with Operation Hope, to launch a finance and family project aimed at providing young women with information about how planning for a family and budgeting go together.

It also informs on the potentially severe financial consequences that can arise when there is no planning and finances are not in order when a baby arrives.

The first workshop was geared toward women as young as 16 and Sherita Goodman, a financial management consultant with Operation Hope, said the $245,000 figure shocked them.

“They really don’t have a clue what it would cost to raise a child,” she said. “They hear that, and it’s unbelievable to them.”

Seeing, however, is believing.

Ingram Stovall, 22, attended two high schools in Memphis – one private and one in the then-Shelby County public system. She recalls neither offering any finance classes, certainly none that covered the financial ramifications of raising a child.

Stovall is now a senior at Murray State University majoring in psychology. She’s also a $10,000 grant recipient of A Step Ahead and Girls Inc., which has identified her as someone with strong academic and professional potential.

“A lot of people don’t have budgets. I’m trying to teach them to live within their means.”

–Sherita Goodman
Operation Hope

Her goal is to go on to graduate school, get a good job, get married and then – after she’s settled – start a family. But all around her she sees young women, some of them friends, who have had an unplanned child before reaching anything close to financial stability.

Although Stovall hasn’t sat in on one of the workshops, she has read the materials. She knows the financial realities, and she sees the everyday hardships young women with children have as they try to complete their education and support themselves and their babies.

“A friend of mine, she had a baby when she was a sophomore or junior and it took her an extra two years to finish school,” Stovall said. “She has to pay for diapers, day care, clothes, a house off campus … fortunately the father is an engineering major, graduated, got a good job and is involved.

“But she was always trying to make sure she had somebody to watch her daughter. You could see the stress on her face quite often.”

Belinda Simpson, director of community outreach for A Step Ahead, says they are trying to make sure young women understand not only how important it is to plan their families, “but how expensive it is if you don’t plan for them.”

The foundation’s Twitter account, @stepaheadme, will be tweeting out financial tips each week with #financefrannie.

Goodman knows from the first workshop there is much education to be done. Young women were amazed at the actual cost of such fundamental items an infant would need – such as milk, a bed, blankets, or even a pacifier.

“A lot of people don’t have budgets,” Goodman said. “They feel like it’s a constraint. I’m trying to teach them they have to live within their means.”

Complicating the issue, Goodman said, is the fact many young women from low-income neighborhoods can be targets for companies making predatory loans. The women often will cash their employment checks at payday loan storefronts – and lose a significant cut – instead of using a conventional bank.

Once the women have made a series of bad financial choices – getting in over their heads with cell phone contracts or car loans, for example – they can ruin their credit and it can take a long time to recover.

At the workshops, women are given materials explaining budgeting and the importance of a good credit score. Goodman breaks it down as simply as she can, telling them if finances are out of balance there are two choices: increasing income or decreasing expenses.

The next workshop is scheduled for Aug. 22 but a location has not yet been determined. Times and location information can be found at www.operationhope.org under the “Memphis Events” tab.

Going forward, the free workshops will be held monthly and at different locations across the Memphis metro area.

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