Reaching the Next Level

BE takes a look at the 2008 Financial Fitness contest winners to see if theyre closer to a secure financial future.

The Advice: Get a credit card. Get a credit card and pay the balance in full each month to build a strong credit history. The couple will need a strong credit rating when the time comes to purchase their home.
The Action: The couple has a department store credit card but despite their excellent credit scores they haven’t yet applied for a major credit card. Marcel says he may get a traditional credit card after the Credit CARD Act, which provides several consumer protections, takes effect in February.

The Advice: Save for college costs. Prepare for the children’s college education by researching scholarships. After closing on the home, strive to save $800 monthly toward upcoming college costs.
The Action: The couple has begun aggressively looking for scholarships. “Our 14-year-old, Damani, is doing well academically. He received a scholarship to attend [a program for high school students at] Purchase College for a month in the summer. However, the real work to get the big scholarships will begin in earnest in the next few years,” says Marcel.


Jarvis and Jelani Hagewood have made several positive changes. The last time we spoke to the Clarksville, Tennessee, couple, they had hit a few bumps in the road. Among them was the fact that they were assisting others financially. Jarvis and Jelani had spent about $8,000 over three years helping family members. They also faced hefty car loan payments totaling $1,800 a month for three cars, one for Jarvis’ mother.

Since appearing in Black Enterprise last October, the couple has committed to paying down their car loans and mortgage. Jarvis and Jelani, ages 35 and 39, are both still in school and on schedule to graduate next year, and fortunately they’ve managed not to accumulate more debt. “We still have no credit card balances and pay the cards in full when we do use them,” says Jelani. After she graduates, Jelani plans to return to the military part time by serving in the National Guard so she can receive benefits such as life insurance, tuition assistance, and retirement.

The Hagewoods have also improved their spending habits by purchasing items in bulk and on sale. “We eat out a lot less and we’ve found ways to cut our energy bills around the house,” says Jelani.

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