Archive for May 2011

Financial Beginnings Welcomes Tiffani Penson to its Board of Directors

Media Contact
Casey Boggs

PORTLAND, Ore., May 26, 2011—Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides free financial education to children and young adults throughout the Pacific Northwest, announced today that Tiffani Penson was elected to its board of directors at its quarterly board meeting.

Penson divides her time working for the City of Portland as bureau support manager for Mayor Sam Adams’ Summer Youth Connect Program, as well as program manager for the Procurement Services Minority Evaluator Program. She has made Financial Beginnings an official partner of Mayor Adams’ Summer Youth Connect program.

“Tiffani’s experience with outreach engagement programs and ability to manage community relationships will be a valuable asset to our board,” said Melody Thompson, executive director of Financial Beginnings. “Her experience will be instrumental in helping guide Financial Beginnings as we continue to grow our programming in Oregon and Washington.”

In her spare time, Penson volunteers as an assistant basketball coach for the St. Andrew Nativity School seventh grade boys basketball team. She is also a member of the National Delegate Election Citizen Involvement Committee and the Boise-Elliott Elementary School Site Council.

About Financial Beginnings
Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides multi-session courses, free of charge, to students and young adults throughout the Pacific Northwest through visits to their individual schools or community groups. The courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at

Student Loan Consolidation- Part II the Dispute Letter

Student Loan Consolidation- Dispute Letter

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to write a dispute letter, but I’m quite experienced in it since I worked in collections for several years. I finally had some time today to sit down and sift through the notices I’ve received over the last several months regarding my student loan consolidation. Unfortunately the more I dug into the paperwork the more it scared me how unorganized they were during this whole process. In March they sent me a notice telling me that they were planning to complete the consolidation 09/01/10, but that they sent it in 02/25/11. They didn’t bother to call the previous loan company to get a new payoff amount since I had still been making my regular monthly payments. It’s important that anytime you are doing a consolidation, refinance or any type of Quick and easy loans change that you continue to make your regular monthly payments on time.

I sifted through all of the paperwork and tried to outline as clear as possible my situation of them receiving a refund from my previous service provider, which then caused my principle balance to go down and somehow caused my payment to go up.

Some important things to know about sending dispute letters:
• Always send dispute letters via certified mail and save the delivery receipt,
• Send the notice to multiple departments if you think it will help,
• Send copies of any documents you are referring to,
• Document and cite names and dates of conversation you have had with the company,
• Clearly state the problem and what you want to know or what your suggested resolve is, and
• Be sure to follow up!

I will be sending the disputer letter out today. I’m sending it to the processing center Texas and the Consolidation Department in Kentucky. Cross your fingers on my getting a response.

My Senior Project by Patrick McCarthy

The following blog is written by a Patrick McCarthy, a high school student who taught the Financial Foundations program to his fellow classmates as part of his senior project.

Looking back on that educational session about investing, I realized I had known practically nothing about money management, financial literacy, and planning for my life. So what did I do? I decided to teach this information which I had known so little about to the other students at my high school.

Through the Bank of America Student Leader Program, I attended a meeting with Meryl Lynch professionals, where my eyes were opened wide by the information, tips, and keys to success I was missing out on. And with all of this daunting information filling my brain, I came upon the thought that if I, an achieving and smart student had no idea about this, then there were probably countless others at my school without any learning in this important area.

So as my senior project, I wanted to teach my fellow senior class about the various aspects of being financially literate. The only challenge being that there were a total of 120 students, which meant teaching five classes a day three days in a row. And to top it off, most volunteer teachers were experts in the field or long time volunteers, and I was just a senior in high school. Nevertheless, I took on this challenge of educating my peers, who would soon themselves be entering the work force and facing their own financial lives.

Eventually, I was finally able to contact the non profits Operation Hope and Financial Beginnings. David Bell, my personal contact, was extremely helpful in getting me information about financial literacy, providing the classroom materials, and much more through the means of advice and excellent support. With this connection, I had a real opportunity to actually accomplish this goal, and was eager to do so.

While I had performed many speeches through class projects, 4-H events, and other venues, this was a totally different experience. After learning about banking, credit, and insurance myself, I wanted to make the largest impact possible on them. Yet I found that trying to drill the information into them was not the way to do so. Since they were all my peers, I found it possible to speak with them, and not lecture them on the importance of financial habits. This prompted numerous questions, discussions, and interest that I could see in their faces.

One particular class stuck out to me in which the teacher and students were intrigued by what I was teaching. When talking about managing money properly, the topic of came up, and some of the students who had heard of it were interested in the site. So the teacher of that class simply pulled up his own profile, and we were able to all go through this site that is efficient in assisting one with his or her financial life. Little instances like this happened in almost every class every day, and gave me the knowledge that they found my information both valuable and interesting.

Of the many things I took away from my project and teaching others, a remarkable thing I noticed was how I knew much more about financial literacy itself compared to when I started. I am greatly satisfied knowing my fellow classmates have a grasp on money in life, yet I was surprised in how much I personally obtained just by teaching the material. Now I know more than ever that I too will be prepared for the complex financial world out there.

Anyone who is interested in teaching or even learning more in depth about financial literacy should seriously consider teaching others about it. You can take it from me that the most beneficial learning you will ever experience is learning by teaching, and learning from and about those who you teach.

HOPE and FB Volunteer Overcoming the Odds and Giving Back in Return

When Cameron Vondrachek was a young boy he struggled with a severe stutter. With the help of hard work, a loving mom and a special device, he overcame much of the stutter, but still has trouble with articulation. But this does not hold Cameron back one bit.

Now a senior in high school Cameron recently visited his 5th grade teacher and her current class to teach the Banking on Our Future program. The teacher and the students loved it. Cameron did an amazing job.

He mixed the important lessons with fun activities and games. The class was hooked. Cameron’s proud mom, Diane Vondracheck from Bank of America, is also a volunteer presenter in Oregon. She said that this opportunity helped Cameron “gain so much confidence and he had a good time teaching the kids. Thank you for giving him the opportunity to do this for his senior project.”

Student Loan Consolidation-Part 1

Though I was able to get through my undergraduate with very few student loans, my graduate education was a different story. I am the type to say that one should invest in their education, but I must admit that my going back to school to get my masters was truly to fuel my own ego. I was already running Financial Beginnings so obtaining the masters did not further my career or pay. I just really love school and quite honestly if I felt I could afford it I would continue on to get my PhD.

After finishing my masters I was left with paying for three student loans to three different companies. Last year I received an offer to consolidate from one of my loan providers and I proceeded with it. Not only would it lower my payments, but it also would make it easier for me by only having to make one payment each month instead of three.

I completed the loan consolidation paperwork early last summer. For some reason the loan servicer only brought over one of the loans now leaving me with two student loans. I contacted them and they asked me to provide the information again in order to consolidate the third loan, which I did late last summer. Since then there’s been little information until early this year when I started hearing more from the finance company that my other loan would soon be paid off and estimating the monthly payment.

In the middle of March my loans were paid and the payment was then recalculated. Unfortunately I had since moved and did not receive the notice of this until after the new payment date had already passed. This was unfortunate for me because my payment went from $80 to $280 and the three week notice they provided for this was not enough time to go through the mail forwarding process and they attempted to take an additional $200 out of my account which I was not expecting. Still this is a moot point to my story.

In mid-April another notice was sent informing me that the loan payment had changed again and increased by $21 because they had received a refund from my previous lender of approximately $1800. What? They received money back which resulted in my loan amount being less and that caused my payment to go up? They said this was my fault because I kept making payments on the other loan. Well of course I would continue to make payments because if I had not then my loan would have been in default for 7 months. It didn’t make sense to me and quite honestly to many of the six people I spoke with during a 1 ½ hour conversation on Thursday that the decreased principle would result in a higher payment. I was assured that all of the loan terms stayed the same, but because the principle balance went down it caused my payment to go up. I assured them that my Master in Finance (which the loan paid for) taught me enough to know that was not mathematically possible. Unfortunately the answer I received from them was that the calculator says it’s so, so it must be so. I went round and round with six people, getting bumped from department to department because nobody was willing to explain the calculation only to find that I had wasted a huge portion of my day.

So now what? My husband says it’s only $21 and we can afford it, but that’s not the point. One of the examples I gave to the loan representative was that if the previous lender would have sent me the $1800 I could have sent them the amount as a payment and my payment would not have gone up. She agreed, yet did not understand why I was laughing when she agreed.

Now I will be sending a dispute letter via certified mail. I will have to dig through the paperwork they sent to me (which is surprisingly little for a $50,000 loan) and see if I can find any information to help to explain why my loan payment would go up when the principle amount went down.

My worry is that because the loan is through the U.S. Department of Education and from what I know about student loans they don’t have the same rules as other loans that nothing is going to happen. So if the rules are different for student loans do they bare the same responsibility to the Truth in Lending Act? I guess I’ll be doing some research this week.

Press Release

Media Contact
Casey Boggs

Annual Fundraising Campaign Raises $30,000 for
Financial Beginnings

Partners, such as OnPoint Community Credit Union, made an important contribution to provide financial education to more than 1,800 local students during April

PORTLAND, Ore., May 12, 2011—Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides free financial education to children and young adults, announced that it raised more than $30,000 through its fundraising campaign held during April’s Financial Literacy month. In April, Financial Beginnings offered the largest amount of programming and had its most successful fundraising campaign in the organization’s history. The funds raised during the campaign will support Financial Beginnings ongoing operations and outreach programs.

“The generosity of the community and our business partners will allow us to provide our free financial education program to 2,000 Oregon youth and will have a huge impact on our ability to meet the increasing demand for our programs,” said Melody Thompson, executive director of Financial Beginnings.

The nonprofit implemented the fundraising campaign via Twitter, Facebook and its website, as well as partnered with OnPoint Community Credit Union, who matched individual donations up to $2500.

Along with donations from individuals, the following local businesses also contributed to the campaign: Robert D. and Marcia H. Randall Charitable Trust, Bank of the West, Cricket Debt Counseling and Alten, Sakai & Company.

About Financial Beginnings
Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides multi-session courses, free of charge, to students and young adults throughout the Pacific Northwest through visits to their individual schools or community groups. The courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at