Financial literacy classes offered today, Tuesday

Bud Werner hosts session for young adults today, adults Tuesday

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If you go

What: Financial literacy classes

When: 11 a.m. to noon today for young adults ages 15 to 20; 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for adults

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library

Cost: $25

Call: Elizabeth Black at 819-5120 to register, or visit www.visiontrekcon...>

— When she took a job as a planner with the Town of Telluride, Annaliese Eichelberger thought she'd be able to pay off the debt she accrued after moving there from Denver.

But Eichelberger was laid off in April - she was one of eight employees the town cut in an effort to make up its budget shortfall - just six months into her job.

That prompted the 25-year-old's move to Steamboat Springs one month and nine days ago, a process that further increased her debt.

Eichelberger, who works at Steamboat Shoe Market, said the move "obliterated" her savings. Now, she carries a $2,000 balance on her credit card.

"That's a lot of money when you make $11 an hour," she said.

Eichelberger said she couldn't find additional work in Telluride. She wanted to stay in a mountain town, so she and her boyfriend, who grew up near Steamboat, came to see whether they could find jobs and an affordable place to live.

"We tried to do things the right way," she said. "The way the economy is right now, even if you are responsible, you can still get into trouble."

Whether having accrued debt from exorbitant spending or through a serious of unfortunate circumstances such as Eichelberger's, many Americans struggle with debt, said Elizabeth "E.A." Black, a consultant with experience in the financial and the public sectors.

According to the U.S. Federal Reserve's Consumer Credit report released Friday, Americans trimmed their debt in June for the fifth straight month. It declined 5 percent, bringing outstanding consumer debt to more than $2.5 trillion. Credit card debt declined by $5 billion in June to $917 billion. The report excludes home mortgages and other real estate-secured loans.

Black, who owns Vision Trek Consulting in Steamboat, is offering financial literacy classes - from 11 a.m. to noon today for young adults ages 15 to 20 and from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Tuesday for adults - that will address issues including repairing credit, reducing debt and the new credit card reform act, which begins in February 2010. The cost of each class is $25.

The adult class provides information about the banking process, managing debt and understanding consumer credit, said Black, formerly a financial analyst with Millenium Bank and executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. She said participants would leave with half a dozen tips to assist them with taking care of their finances.

"There's a tendency, if people are in a financial mess, they don't know where to start, and they don't know what to do, so they do nothing," Black said. "The class offers simple tips people can start doing today that will have a measurable impact on their lives in four weeks."

She said the young adult class, which had eight participants when it first was offered in June, addresses the importance of a spending plan, including budgeting and saving. Black said other topics include car insurance and how driving records, moving violations and school grades all affect premiums. It also provides instruction on debt and credit, including the new credit card reform act.

Black said financial literacy in the U.S. is "horrible" and is taught at the secondary level in only six states. Colorado isn't one of them.

She said challenges are even greater in resort communities such as Steamboat where wages are low and expenses are high.

"It's a double whammy, really, because of our location and our economy," Black said.

Black hopes to start offering the classes as part of a series each month or every six weeks. But the young adult class is being offered now, she said, for college students before they return to school.

Given the economic recession, Eichelberger doesn't think she'll be able to return to her degree field of city planning for at least a year. She said she might have to get a second job in the meantime to trim her debt.

She's not the only one.

"Everyone's in the same spot," Eichelberger said. "I feel like it's not as much of an issue - not as much taboo - because everyone's having the same problems."

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