"I really need a reliable car," Rund said -- and she's not the only one. Her elderly and disabled clients rely on Rund's new(ish) 2004 Kia Rio to get them to their doctor appointments. She also takes them on essential grocery and pharmacy runs as well as social outings and thrift store visits -- which may be less crucial but seem plenty important to Rund. Otherwise, she said, these folks rarely get out of the house, see anybody or do anything pleasurable at all.
Closer to home, she added, her minor son and her disabled boyfriend, who doesn't drive, also depend on Rund and her car for connections with the outside world. Plus, she said, one of the two jobs that she cobbles together into a reasonable full-time income also comes with health insurance.
"Without this car I wouldn't have my agency job. Without my agency job I wouldn't have health care," she said. Clearly, a whole bunch of lives depend on Rund's Kia Rio.
"It's a real champ," Rund said of her shiny little car. Her pride reflects the hard work she's put in to gain financial literacy, repair her formerly crummy credit and qualify for the extremely favorable car loan that leveraged her back onto the road after her old beater of a Buick, a 1993 LeSabre, gave up the ghost.
Because her credit wasn't the best, she first qualified for a towering car-loan rate of 34 percent, with the bulk of each payment going to interest, not principal. Lund managed to talk the loan company down to 29 percent, but her monthly payments still would have eaten her alive, she said. She calls such lenders "legal loan sharks."
Lund is one of the first
The cost to Lund: one initial
However, when the program started, she was "mistrusting," she said. "I haven't even started and they already want money," was her attitude.
Her mistrust quickly melted. The
And, in the end, she qualified for an extremely affordable
"I can't tell you the number of ways it's helped me," she said. "When one of my clients passed away and my hours decreased, they deferred my payments for two months. They have been amazing to me."
It's all part of a broad strategy by the
"A lot of participants are working in the health care field," just like
The financial education piece starts with a two-hour class, Wood said, but after that "we work one on one because everyone's case is so different. We provide that throughout the life of the loan. If you're having a hard time, if you want to meet with us and rebudget, we're there for you."
The program reports to credit rating agencies, she said, so participants who make their payments and do well with the program watch their credit score continue to improve, she said.
Plus, Lund's success in the program qualified her for a further opportunity: an Individual Development Account, which saves
"We work closely with Share, and they had some slots available and I knew she'd be a great fit," Wood said. "She really seized that opportunity."
Wood said Ways to Work is a national program developed decades ago by the
"It was originally created to help families facing barriers to unemployment and school because of transportation issues." If you work a complicated schedule or live out in the country, urban public transport may be of no use to you.
"Everyone in this program is a parent and everyone has a job -- that's one of the requirements," Wood said. "But a lot of times people are just hanging on, making it work with bikes, or begging rides, or taking the bus if they can. But that really limits the opportunities parents have for employment. You can't take a sudden swing shift if it's offered. And you can't take any job that requires a vehicle."
People who have poor credit or no credit history at all "can't get a loan at an affordable rate," Wood said. "These lenders say, 'Sure, we'll give you a loan, at 35 percent interest.' We find these families who are earning a decent enough wage but not enough to cover a car payment of
"Our interest rate is 8 percent. Everyone who goes through the program gets exactly the same rate. For many people it's cutting their payments in half. They're not stuck in a
Wood said the program, which just started in
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