On The Money Track

By Mary Wicoff
Commercial-News, Danville, Ill.


Grocery shopping isn’t something Antanisha Taylor takes lightly anymore.

Instead, the mother of five has a strategy: she makes a list, clips coupons, gathers store ads, gets a babysitter, sets a budget — and puts on “blinders” to all those temptations.

Those are just a few of the tricks the Danville woman has learned from Money Mentors, a program through the University of Illinois Extension. The free one-on-one program helps people manage their finances by pairing them with a mentor.

“It’s helped me a lot,” Taylor, 40, said. “The best advice I got was: It’s not going to change all at once. Take small steps. Once you do the small changes, you see a difference in the long run.”

She’s seen a lot of progress since she started the program last year.

Taylor was paired with volunteer Linda Smith, who works as assistant vice president of regional branch operations at MidWest America Federal Credit Union.

The two women met at the Danville Public Library every other week for nine months, and discussed how Taylor could get on track financially. They finished the mentoring last fall; however, Smith remains available to help Taylor when there are questions or roadblocks.

“I think she’s done an excellent job,” Smith said. “Anyone who has taken a change in their financial situation has a lot of hurdles to jump over.”

One month, a person can be financially stable; the next month, an unexpected expense upsets the budget.

That’s when a mentor steps in to say: “It’s OK. Start over next month.”

“A lot of it is having someone support you,” Smith said.

Kathy Sweedler, consumer economics educator with the Extension, created the Money Mentor program in 2013 after noticing a definite need for financial mentoring. The program is modeled after a national Cooperative Extension program in other states.

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