> Posted by Emily Leeding
When asked to write a blog post, I laughed. What in my life is possibly related to financial inclusion? And then I realized – Ozzie.
Let me set the scene – I recently purchased my first home. “STRIKING VICTORIAN ROWHOUSE- AMAZING POTENTIAL” said the ad. I was hooked. The ad did not lie, but did neglect to mention the hours upon hours one will spend scrapping paint and sanding staircases to unleash that striking Victorian-ness. Fixer-upper was an understatement, but, being a bit of do-it-yourselfer, I had forgone the more traditional contractor approach and began my new night and weekend job.
Ozzie came into my life one afternoon when I was confronted with one of those “it is too heavy for me to move” moments. Recommended by a neighbor, I quickly realized what a gem I had found in Ozzie – the all around knowledgeable handyman.
Like many microentrepreneurs, Ozzie has an informal business. He does the work himself, and if he needs help he talks one of his buddies into coming over. His marketing is word of mouth; he has no business bank account, doesn’t keep track of his cash flow, and has no credit card. This last point I discovered when I received a call from Home Depot one afternoon. Ozzie didn’t have enough cash in his account to cover the materials he wanted to purchase for me. After I read those 16 digits to the cashier, I thought about what difference access to financial services and education can make for a person.
The daughter of a banker, I’ve had the importance of solid money management drilled into me since birth. I established good credit early and lived frugally. When I decided to purchase my first home, I qualified for a decent loan amount and a low interest rate. I created a budget and stuck to it. The whole process was scarily easy.
Ozzie is a natural businessman and manager, but as an immigrant, he does not have the same background knowledge to the US financial system that I do. After determining if he has a past credit history for free through http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ and that he has the ability to gain one through his Tax ID number, I referred him to ACCION USA’s Financial Education Resources. This is a wonderful series of modules on the US credit system, developed for small business owners but absolutely applicable to anyone that wants to improve their financial knowledge.
Ozzie is taking steps to create a credit history and formalize his business. It will be a long time before he will be able to get a bank loan, but the knowledge he has gained has put him in charge of his own future. So while Ozzie has taught me the secret of peeling 4 layers of paint of my fireplace mantle, I have taught him something – how to effectively use the US financial system. Fair trade, I would say.