Thursday, October 23, 2014

The power of V.I.T.A. and financial counseling

Client A.V. came to our offices to find assistance managing his finances along with assistance finding a second part time job to increase his monthly income.  A.V. also came to us with a $4000+ debt to the government. As a result his checks were even further reduced by an administrative wage garnishment.  Money is continuously tight for the A.V. household!  In discussing his finances we determined that he had made some mistakes on his tax filings.  By paying attention to his situation and listening for the clients response we began asking further questions.  Some question that came about were if he had been using the earned income tax credit and claiming his daughter on his taxes.  We found that he had been missing valuable credits which would have greatly increased his refund.  We filed corrections for his taxes and as a result he was entitled to much larger returns for the past three years.  Because of the garnishment these refunds were used by the government to pay this debt, however, now his liability has been greatly reduced by over $3000! Soon this balance can be paid and this garnishment will end, increasing the amount in his budget.  We are happy that we were able to have such an impact on the life of a client!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Success Stories

Kim K., came to us as a referral from a good friend after recently being terminated from her most recent employer. Through the center’s services she received assistance applying for unemployment, but unfortunately was quickly denied.  Soon after her main focus was finding employment but she was not sure of where to start. She was also injured on her previous job which posed an issue for her to return to the field shed known for so long. Kim’s experience prior to program entry was in the healthcare industry but she also held a Class E driver’s license, but never truly took advance of it. For years she never needed a resume or had to apply online for jobs. So today’s job was an unexpected hurdle. However, with the assistance of employment services, resume building, job leads and access to the computers to conduct her job search. Soon after her membership she was gainfully employment full time as a local transportation driver with benefits. Kim’s success was due to her commitment to make scheduled appointments and her openness to overcome her hurdles.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Employers and Credit Checks

It is become a major topic of conversation on many job search and career sites.  People are talking about it with their friends and family members. I'm referring to the growing trend of employers using credit reports as a way of finding the "best" employees to fit their firms.  What this means and how it actually affects individuals is often poorly understood!

Who's checking and why?
Traditionally employers in very sensitive and high profile industries.  These have included the finance industry, defense firms, chemical and pharmaceutical companies.  However increasingly more firms in less sensitive industries are picking up this trend as a way of whittling through long lists of candidates.
Reviewing of credit reports are being used as an indicator of an applicants financial honesty and personal integrity.  Unfortunately, a credit report isn't always a great indicator of either, especially if negative credit items are the result of being unemployed!

Consumer protection
In all cases, an employer must get your permission to check your credit report.  The report that employers do receive is modified in a way that shields some consumer information such as account numbers, year of birth and references to your spouse.  Additionally, if a negative decision is made based on information in your credit report, the employer must send information on how an individual can get a copy of their report.  Most importantly, an employer can not access your credit report without your permission.

What you need to do:
Understanding that the reviewing of credit reports is being used as a way to help shrink the pool of potential candidates and make hiring decisions more efficient, there are ways of addressing negative items and ensuring you aren't automatically placed in the "No" Pile.
  • Get a copy of your credit report from By knowing what's on your report you can identify any negative items.
  • Be proactive: If you think something on your report may be keeping you from getting a job, take steps to address it with employers
    • Write a letter to a potential employer detailing the life situations that caused the negative credit report item:  Highlight any steps you took to rectify the situation. 
    • If the item is current or fairly recent, develop a plan on how you will improve the credit report:  Contact creditors or collection agencies to set up payment plans or negotiate payments or settlements. If you can't make payments due to your current situation, e.g. unemployment or under employment, discuss steps you will take when you are able.
    • Focus on steps you are taking to ensure that your future credit performance stays positive.
    • Stay away from excuses and wording that may be perceived negatively: For example, saying that I simply forgot to make my payments could show a lack of attention to detail.
  • Remain positive: Talk about the changes you will make going forward and how you won't let money problems distract you from your work life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Debt Collections: A huge problem for many Americans

Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors: Associated Press

In the above article, its reported that more than 1/3 of all Americans are being confronted by debt collections. Not only are they having to deal with the collection calls and other practices, for many who find themselves with accounts in collection, they also find themselves with a reduction in their credit score, difficulty finding housing and employment and the potential to be required to pay high deposits for services.  In many cases, accounts falling in to collection are the result of rising costs of services, increased costs of goods, which may divert funding away from bills to other necessities, and even extreme weather conditions can make paying utility bills more difficult.  With the stagnant wage growth in America, and the rising costs of living in many cities there are several important things the the Prosperity Center staff encourages. 
We work diligently to ensure that our clients can create a budget that helps them to get their finances on track.  We also help clients work towards keeping to their budget.  Our employment coach works with clients to help them find employment that pays a liveable wage.  She also works to help clients who are employed find ways to help them find ways to increase their salary through negotiation skills advanced training and/or certifications.
In addition to this, what's needed are some policy changes.  It isn't fair to the credit profile of many Americans to spend years paying their utility bills on time and to never have that information reported (Utility bills, including cell phones and cable services, are not reported monthly on your credit report).  The only time these accounts will report is when the account falls behind and goes in to collections.  One opportunity for policy improvements involves reporting the "full file" about clients.  This way in addition to the negative impact of a collection, clients will also have an account that shows the years of on time payments, allowing viewers of the report to see how well individuals pay their obligations and helping individuals to better showcase their good payment history.

Friday, April 4, 2014

March Success Story

Reginio H., came to us after being long term unemployed and having no income for a little over six years.  Mr. Hernandez has tried other employment services in the community, but unfortunately he was still unable to find employment. Within a nine year time frame his prior work experience was in a wide range of industries and no position was the same. Upon program entry, he received intensive one-on-one coaching sessions to determine his transferable skills in order to make him marketable for employment. His sessions also included: a mock interview, resume and cover letter revisions, employment referrals and job search options. Within a few months of his participation and determination he was able to find part time employment with the possibility of full time.  As a result, he received support services offered from the Center to assist with transportation for the first month. Not only has Mr. Hernandez increased his income he will also receive paid training from his new employer.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Top 10 Ways to Save: How Will You Maximize Your Refund?

There are many ways to spend your tax refund this year. Before you hit the mall, take a few minutes to check out the Top 10 Ways to Save and do more with your tax refund. Prosperity Center Coaches can help you develop a savings plan, manage debt and expenses, and achieve your financial goals.

1. Buy a Savings Bond:

With the Tax Time Savings Bonds program you can save part of your tax refund with U.S. Savings Bonds. For as little as $50, you can buy a savings bond and start saving for your family’s future.
  • Savings bonds can help you by setting aside money for emergencies, or to get closer to your goal to buy a home, pay for education or save for retirement. 
  • You can buy bonds in someone else’s name to give as gifts and help your loved ones reach their dreams. 
  • To buy a savings bond, check the box on the paper or online tax form and indicate the amount of the savings bond(s) you want to buy. If you are filing a paper return, use Form 8888
  • Watch your mailbox: You will get your savings bonds in the mail 3 to 5 weeks after you receive your tax refund. 
  • Learn more about buying savings bonds with your tax refund.
For FREE tax preparation services, schedule an appointment at our VITA site, or visit

2. Pay down your debt and overdue bills:

If you have overdue bills or loans, use your tax refund to pay them. Once your debt is gone, you’ll have more spending money and you may even sleep better at night.
  • Late fees and interest charges can add up quickly and they can ruin your credit. 
  • Start by paying your bills, credit cards or loans that charge the highest fees and interest rates. 
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your debt, get free help from our Financial Coach. Schedule a Program Overview today.

3. Open a savings account:

Having a bank or credit union account will help you
  • have a safe place to keep your money, 
  • save money by avoiding check cashing fees, 
  • get into the habit of saving, 
  • establish a financial history, and 
  • get affordable car and home loans in the future.

4. Create an emergency fund:

Deposit your tax refund into your savings account to save for a rainy day. Or better yet, open a separate savings account or money market account at your bank or credit union. That way you can avoid using your emergency account on a regular basis and your money will be there when you need it. You should try to save the amount of money you would need to pay your regular expenses for one to three months in your emergency fund.

5. Save for retirement

You are never too young to start saving for retirement. You’ll need more than what you’ll get from Social Security to retire. Use your tax refund to add to your retirement account or find out how to open a retirement account if you don’t have one already.

6. Save for education

B.B. King once said, “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” Give your child—or yourself—the chance to go to school and have a better future. Put your money in a college savings fund so your money can grow safely and tax-free. Or use your tax refund to get a GED so you can get a better job.

7. Repair your home

If you own a home, you know it’s hard to set aside money to fix it up. With more cash in your pocket, you can make needed repairs to your home, whether it’s replacing a broken appliance, fixing a leaky roof or adding insulation to save you money on heating and cooling costs.

8. Start a Business

Your tax refund can be a great way to jumpstart a small business. Visit our partners at KCSourceLink to learn about resources available to you to help start your own business.

9. Take advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Food Stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government program that gives households money to buy food.

Programs vary but in many states, if you receive SSI or SSDI, you may qualify to get SNAP benefits as well. Plus, if you’re applying for or receiving SSI, you may also be able to get SNAP information and an application at your local Social Security office. Those who qualify get an Electronic Benefit Transfer order EBT card that can be used like a debit card at many grocery stores, gas stations, and farmers’ markets.

Schedule a Program Overview, then meet with our Income Supports Specialist to find out if you qualify SNAP.

10. Take advantage WIC: Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children

WIC is a federal nutritious food and education program for women, infants and children — specifically, pregnant moms and kids under five. Programs vary state to state but the average monthly benefit is forty dollars!

Keep in mind that just because you get WIC benefits doesn’t mean others won’t. All who qualify, benefit! Plus, if you receive SSI, you may qualify to get WIC benefits as well. WIC benefits include nutritious food or coupons to buy things like milk, juice, eggs, cheese, cereal, and formula. And, access to free health services like prenatal care, immunizations, nutrition advice, and parenting education. Find out if you or your children qualify for WIC today by visiting

Schedule a Program Overview, then meet with our Income Supports Specialist to find out Missouri and Kansas requirements for WIC.

Friday, February 21, 2014

April is Money Smart Month in Kansas City. Join The Prosperity Center, Rockhurst University and Catholic Charities for Free Film Screenings. We will discuss financial education and personal finance literacy topics including:
  • Banking
  • Budgeting
  • Money management
  • Saving and investing
  • Financial planning
  • Credit
  • Debt management
  • Financial decision making
  • Financial fraud and scams
  • and more!

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) starring Will Smith
Friday, April 11 from 7:00pm-10:00pm 
Lucky (2010) an HBO documentary
Friday, April 25 from 7:00pm-10:00pm

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Free IRS-Certified Tax Preparation

The Prosperity Center is an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site offering FREE tax preparation for individuals and families with gross annual household income of $52,000 or less.

Our site is located in the Rockhurst Community Center at 54th Street and Troost Ave from 8:00am to 12:00pm on Saturdays during this tax season.

Registration is required for volunteer assistance, but you can self-file your federal returns and state returns for free at

Register on our website or call to schedule an appointment.

What to bring:
  • Social Security card for each family member or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter
  • Valid photo ID
  • W-2 forms from all jobs worked in 2013
  • All 1099 forms for other income, if any
  • Total paid for child care, provider name, address and tax ID
  • Any other tax-related documents for 2013
  • Proof of bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of refund 
  • A copy of your 2012 tax return (if available)
  • All adults on return must be present to sign
Prosperity Center Tax Volunteers can help your refund grow by depositing it into your savings account, retirement account or US Savings Bonds. Let us help you file your taxes and plan for your future financial goals!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tax Season Volunteer Opportunities

The Prosperity Center has a number of volunteer opportunities this tax season. As an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Site, we offer free tax help to individuals and families with incomes under $52,000. Volunteers of all skill levels are welcome. Contact us to sign up.


Site Coordinator
Manage all facets of a VITA site, including managing volunteers, setting up the Site, transmitting returns, contacting clients concerning rejected returns, retransmitting corrected returns, and collecting and submitting data. The Site Coordinator must be comfortable using a computer and have the ability to use Microsoft Windows-type programs. In general, advanced-level tax certification is required.

Financial Specialist 

Help Prosperity Center clients understand the value of transactional and/or savings accounts. The Financial Specialist may open accounts for clients who choose to establish one of these relationships. Computer and Internet experience is required for this position. A background in financial education or financial services is helpful.


Act as the initial contact to the taxpayer, helping coordinate traffic flow and ensuring that the taxpayer qualifies for free tax assistance. The Greeter has each client sign in and provides information sheets to be completed. No income tax knowledge is necessary for this position.

Information Assistant 

Gather appropriate documentation for the Tax Preparer, reviews the client information sheets for completion, and provides appropriate data as noted on information sheets. No income tax knowledge is necessary for this position.


Facilitate bilingual communications between the clients and the tax preparer. No income tax knowledge is necessary for this position.

Quality Control Reviewer 

Check each return for accuracy and completeness before it is transmitted. The Quality Control Reviewer completes and initials a checklist for each return. Advanced-level tax certification is required.

Tax Preparer 

Review client documentation, interview the client, and prepare the client’s personal federal, state, and local income tax returns on a computer. You must be comfortable using a computer. Basic-level tax certification is required.

Tax Coach 

Help taxpayers who choose to prepare their own returns under the assisted self-preparation model. The Tax Coach must be comfortable using a computer and have the ability to use Internet tax programs. It is recommended that you be familiar with completing your own tax returns. Basic-level tax certification is required.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 Community Workshops and Tax Prep

We are kicking off the new year with new community workshops. The Prosperity Center is also a VITA tax preparation site, providing free income tax filing assistance for households with income of $52,000 or less.

Workshops are free and open to everyone, but registration is required. Contact us to register and get started toward your 2014 goals!

Prosperity Center for Financial Opportunity
2014 Community Workshops

ABC's of Personal Finance
January 25th
10:00 am

Filing Your FAFSA

February 11th

  4:00 pm

Living on a Fixed Income

March 11th

  4:00 pm

LinkedIn Networking

April 8th

12:00 pm

Choose to Save

May 17th

10:00 am

Online Job Applications

May 31st

10:00 am

February 15th8:00 am-Noon

February 22nd

8:00 am-Noon

March 15th

8:00 am-Noon

March 29th

8:00 am-Noon

April 12th

8:00 am-Noon