I knew when I bought a house it was going to be in or near the Rondo neighborhood. I was raised here, have roots here, and it’s been a goal to bring my mom home.

LeAndra, a volunteer financial coach who’s also been a participant of Prepare + Prosper’s coaching and tax prep programs, just bought her first home through Habitat for Humanity earlier this year in Frogtown, which neighbors the Rondo community. Her mom was a big part of her motivation to buy a home, and what ultimately made homeownership possible was constructing a savings habit with all the learnings she’d collected throughout her life.

All of my teachings have come through my community—from the people I know, the groups and alliances my mom led, and the organizations I’ve been connected to. I grew up hearing and learning about the stories and the significance of the freeway breaking the structure of our black community and saw my mom do a lot in the fight for justice. I have a lot of touch to this community.

Learning from and giving to her community

As soon as LeAndra got her first job at a local drug store and pharmacy, she was learning about money – specifically about bills.

Both of my parents managed their money but my mom always did the bills. One of my favorite memories was a white envelope where she’d write ‘bills’ and then list out the bills to pay and how much was due. She’d put her money for those bills in that envelope. It became a standard for me, too. I remember the first bill my mom made us pay when we got jobs was life insurance. As a kid I was excited to help out but life insurance? I asked if I could trade for a cell phone bill instead, I really wanted a phone!

With each check, something like $20 went to life insurance and most went to help out the family– which included four older brothers – because she was taught at an early age about contributing to the household and giving back. It was when LeAndra graduated from high school, had her first child, and was moving out and charting plans for college and a career—and dealing with dings to her credit score—that she sought more guidance and support on managing money to reach her dreams.

I’m a dreamer. If I think of something and if I really want it, I’m going do it one day. I believe in setting goals.

LeAndra found financial education on the basics like budgeting and accounting at a Community Action agency, where she later joined the board. They referred her to Prepare + Prosper for free tax help and it was there she had a conversation with a volunteer about saving some of her refund. She started the habit of purchasing savings bonds with the financial cushion her refund offered her. She was hesitant at first because trusting the government with her money is not a common practice in her community.

I first spent time trial and error learning. I didn’t have a full grasp on the credit system and had to learn as I went. I had a checking account that wasn’t working for me and my credit was dinged due to timing with checks coming in and going out. I was also taking in all that people were teaching and sharing with me. I didn’t jump in feet first with the advice I was being given. I collected information and made a plan that worked for me.

She got more involved at P+P, joining various workshops and events, which included a conversation with the community about responsible banking. It was there she learned about credit unions and fees and features to pay attention to, particularly with checking accounts. She heard about community members’ setbacks and frustrations. With that information, she switched from the bank she was at to a credit union that she’s now been with for years. With them, she not only has a checking account that’s working for her but has been able to build her credit with a secured card, which led to a car loan. She also saved for the house with the credit union as well.

A mindset of saving

The biggest contributor to reaching homeownership for LeAndra was saving for the down payment plus an emergency fund.

I went to many programs to learn about saving before getting to the point of saving. The biggest myth for me is the starting point of ‘How much am I going to save?’ Saving starts with budgeting.

First for LeAndra is earning. You have to earn, then budget, then plan, and then you get to savings. And it’s not just about saying that you’re saving or having a savings account, but giving that savings account a purpose.

It’s not just about saying you have a savings account but saying you are saving for a down payment. And saying it over and over and over again. You literally have to put a name on your savings.

LeAndra joined P+P’s Money Mentors financial coaching program for motivation and accountability in reaching her down payment goal. She worked one-on-one with a financial coach to lay out her goals and commit to them with someone who isn’t her friend or family and will hold her accountable in different way.

It’s not just about the gaining and learning, it’s also about the motivation. It’s about having someone sit across from you and tell you that they believe in you and help you to see the course in how to get there. I talk a lot about my family and they are my biggest support, but I find it to be easier to tell a stranger what I want and where I want to go, who I want to be. It creates a different kind of accountability–holding yourself up to your coach rather than a family member where relationships have other purposes, too.

New roles and new goals

In June, LeAndra became a volunteer coach in P+P’s Money Mentors program.

I wanted to be a coach to give someone that same motivation, give someone that same hope and the same dream. I’m finding in doing so that I’m learning a lot. I’m learning about others’ ideas and decisions. But it’s also being able to see the things that people are thinking and how they align with my goals and my own future and the investments I want to be a part of.

LeAndra has just sent her oldest daughter off to college for dentistry. She shared it could not have come at a better time – as she’s becoming a coach, she’s helping her daughter transition to becoming an independent young adult, teaching her to take charge of her own goals and finances.

In talking with the women I coach, I’m there with them in life. I’ve closed on a home and am back at the drawing board. When I’m speaking to them, I’m speaking to myself. It’s all just so rewarding.

Now that LeAndra can cross owning a home off of her list of goals, owning her own business is up next. She’s started a food truck called The Kitchen with her brothers that serves up chicken, catfish, hush puppies, and the Twin Cities’ only turkey chop. She’s also started a community group called “Women with Purpose.” Their long term goal is an emergency food shelf and pantry for household items. They’re also continuing the work her daughter started last year via a school project with the YMCA around depression and the black community. They also want to focus on breastfeeding and the black community.

Stacy Opitz

Marketing + Communications Director

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