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Innovative Connections
Resource Toolkit for October 2010

In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Tip of the Month
Innovative Advice
Product Profile
For Our Borrowers
Quick Links
Upcoming Events
Financial Household Stability - 4-part group workshops

* Wednesdays 11am-1pm, October 6-27 at New Columbia Opportunity Center, 4610 N Trenton St, Portland


* Saturdays 10am-12pm, October 2-23 at Hewitt Place Townhomes Community Room, 846 SW 29th Way, Troutdale

NAYA Family Center Fee Tax Preparation

* Thursday, October 14, 5pm-8pm,


* Saturday, October 23, 9am-12pm.

To make your appointment call Irena at (503) 288-8177

x280 or email her.

Proud Ground information sessions

* 6:30-7:30 pm

* Monday, October 25 at Proud Ground office, 5288 N Interstate Ave., Portland


* Tuesday, October 12, at East Portland Community Center, 740 SE 160th Ave

To register call 503.493.0293 or register online.

Portland Housing Center Homeowner Basics Program


Wednesdays October 6 and 20, 6-7pm at 3233 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland.
No registration necessary.

FREE Dental Clinic

* Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd,
11/22 through 11/23, opening at 7am

For more info or call
Oregon Dental Association at (503) 218-2010 or (800) 452-5628 or visit the website.

Free AAAH Home Ownership Fair

* Saturday, October 30, 10am-2:30pm at Legacy

Emanuel Atrium , 501 North Graham, Portland.

More info online or 503.595.3517.

AAAH Homebuyer Education Class

* Saturday, November 13, 9am-4:30pm, at Emanuel

Hospital Conference Room MOB West , 501 North Graham, Portland.

To register for the class
call 503.595.3517 or email them.

Join Our Mailing List

What did you think of the first issue of "Innovative Connections" our monthly guide to resources for our clients? We aim to provide you with information about upcoming classes and events, handy money management tips, resources that you can access in your community and more. We also want to make this publication as useful to you as possible. Please email us with any feedback: your comments, thoughts, or suggestions are always welcome.

In this second issue, we'll talk about your credit report, becoming a home owner, and budgeting; we also have a contest for you and we're introducing a new Q&A column.

Happy reading!

Talia Kahn-Kravis
Innovative Changes

Tip of the Month: Check on Your Credit

SunriseIt may be daunting and a bit stressful-who knows what past debts are lurking on your report- but knowledge is power and being aware of our credit history is a critical first step to taking control of our financial lives. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to start repaying all your debts right away! Knowing what is on your report can help you set up a plan to rebuild your credit over time and eventually increase your score to achieve your personal goals. Good credit is an asset that can help you save real dollars down the line on insurance premiums, car loans, home mortgages, credit cards rates and more. While there is no quick fix, it's worth it (and usually less painful than you think) to spend some time becoming acquainted with your credit report.

Here's how to start:

1. Get a copy of your credit report

There are three different credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Each is obliged to give you one free credit report per year. This means that you can look at your credit, although not your actual score, three times throughout the year, once from each Bureau every four months, at no cost and with no impact on your credit score. Beware of other sites that advertise free credit reporting, but ask for a debit or credit card number. You can access your free credit report by:

  • Submitting a request online at
  • Calling toll-free: 877-322-8228
  • Completing an Annual Credit Request form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-528.
2. Know what's on your credit report

 Your credit report will contain information about:
  • You - your social security number, current and previous addresses, your birth date, current and previous employers and if married, your spouse's name.
  • Your credit history - it will show your account record with different creditors, how much credit has been extended and how and how well you have repaid your debts.
  • Inquiries - a list of inquiries from creditors and other authorized parties who have requested and received your credit report.
  • Public records - a report containing information about you in public records such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, civil judgments, and late child support payments.
3. Understand what counts

While your Annual Credit Report will not give you your credit score for free, knowing what is on your credit report is the first step of towards knowing what you need to do to work on the score. Scores are calculated differently by different places. To get a better idea of how everything counts here is a breakdown of what each component is worth according to the FICO scoring method:
  • 35% - Past payment history (how well you have repaid your debts)
  • 30% - Outstanding debt
  • 15% - How long you have had credit
  • 10% - New applications for credit (inquiries)
  • 10% - Types of credit (such as revolving or installment credit)
4. Make sure it's all correct

Half of all credit reports have errors; this is a high number, so there is a good chance that something may be incorrect on your report. Inaccuracies could also be a red flag for identity theft, so it's important to get to the review your report carefully.

Looking at your report consistently (at least three times a year) is a good way to mitigate identity theft. Once you have read it carefully, identify any mistakes that you see and take action by writing a dispute letter.

The dispute letter should be addressed to whatever credit reporting agency you pulled the report from and should include your name, telephone number, date of birth, social security number, a description of the error, and proof that it's incorrect. The agency has 30 days to respond to you or delete it from your record.

5. Set up a plan

Sit down by yourself, with family or a friend, or come talk to a financial coach at Innovative Changes to set up a plan for repairing and/or building your credit that will work for you! This can mean setting aside a certain amount of money a month to chip away at a debt (every little bit counts) or opening a trade line by taking out a credit builder loan with us or finding another credit tool that meets your particular needs and can establish a positive payment track record.

Image credit: Xavier Fargas
NEW: Tip of the Month Contest

Win a Gift Card, Send Us Your Original Tips!

Have you come up with super savvy saving ideas, brilliant methods of budgeting or creative credit boosters? Let us know!

Each month we will collect your innovative money management tips - these could be about resourceful ways you've saved money, thrifty activities you enjoy, helpful insights into living on a tight budget, etc. We will enter these tips into a pool and if selected, your tip will be featured in the next Innovative Connections and you will win a $20.00 Fred Meyer gift card.
Fred Meyer
Send us your tips:

Tip of the Month
Innovative Changes
4610 N. Trenton St.
Portland, OR 97203

Or tell or e-mail them to Talia at: (503) 943-5620 or

Image credit: Ricky Irvine

Resources: Becoming a Homeowner

It C
ould Happen To You!

Are you interested in owning a home someday? This may be a long-term dream or a step that you foresee taking in the next couple years. No matter where you are financially, it's never too early to start planning. There are lots of resources out there to help you get closer to home ownership.

Houses in PortlandGood credit

A fundamental step towards owning a home is having good credit. As discussed in our "Tip of the Month" section, having good credit history can help you qualify for a better interest rate on your mortgage and save you thousands of dollars over time. To start improving your credit, check out our steps above and get in contact with a financial coach at Innovative Changes by emailing us at or calling 503.943-5620.


Attend a workshop:
  • Proud Ground, a non-profit organization working to increase access to affordable homeownership, hosts monthly information sessions on opportunities to buy a home. From there, you may be able to work with Proud Ground Staff to set up a home buying plan. They can also connect you to other community resources that will be helpful for whatever home-buying stage you're in. Proud Ground classes take place from 6:30-7:30 pm on the fourth Monday of each month at the Proud Ground office: 5288 N Interstate Ave and every second Tuesday of the month at the East Portland Community Center: 740 SE 160th Ave. To register call (503) 493-0293 or visit their website.
  • Portland Housing Center (PHC) offers a Homeowner Basics Program. Free orientations about their services occur on the first and third Wednesdays of every month from 6-7 pm at the Portland Housing Center office on 3233 NE Sandy Blvd. These sessions answer basic questions about homeownership and connect you with other services PHC offers such as Financial Fitness and Homebuyer 101 classes, HomeHomebuyer Counseling and an Individual Development Account (IDA) Match Savings Program that can jumpstart your house buying funds. No advanced registration is required for the orientations and for more information you can call (503) 282-7744 x101.
  • African American Alliance for Homeownership (AAAH) works with future homebuyers through homebuyer coaching, one on one counseling, education classes (see event section for next class), an IDA match savings program, homeowner fairs, and a Minority Homeownership Rentention Collaborative. They have a free homeownership fair coming up on October 30 at Legacy Emanuel Hospital (details in events section) which will feature over40 housing professionals, free parking and lunch, home buyer/foreclosure workshops and a chance to win a $1000 grant and other prizes. For more information on AAAH services contact Dee-Dee Gipson at or 503-595-3517.
Image credit: Stephanie Booth
Innovative Advice From the Budget Buff

 Abacus* Every month we will be answering a question or giving advice based on a scenario that someone sends us. If you would like financial advice on something you're facing in your life, email or call us at or 503.943.5620. All situations and questions will be kept anonymous.*

Dear Budget Buff,

Last month I set up a budget for myself that fits my income. I
calculated everything so that I would have $50 left over for savings
every month. I even cut down my frappacinos to once a week in order to free up some extra cash. But, this week when I went to pay my phone bill, I barely had enough money to pay for it. I thought
that I was going to get ahead in my savings with all this careful
budgeting, but once again I find myself squeezing to pay all my
bills. What is going on?

Busted Budget

Dear Busted Budget,

This is a common situation. Sometimes, if you have enough income to meet all your expenses, the issue isn't a matter of funds, its timing. If you get paid two times a month, but all your bills are due in the first part of the month, it's going to be hard to cover the cost of everything and have money left over.

One thing we often do during our coaching sessions is to have people look at their income from one paycheck, and all the bills/expenses they need to pay from that time until their next paycheck. If you find that your utilities, rent, insurance, loan payments, etc. are heavily concentrated in one pay period, you may want to consider calling one of your service providers to change your payment date. That way, your expenses will be spread out among two pay periods rather than just one.

If this isn't possible, you can figure out how much you should save
from one pay check in order to supplement bills that you will need
to pay in the next pay period. If you organize your budget by time
and payment dates, you will have a better idea what you can save and when.

It's also good to be aware of the penalties for late payments in
case you are in a situation one month where you don't have enough to cover all your expenses. This way you can hold off on the bill that has the smallest consequence.

Hope this helps!


Budget Buff

Image credit: Leo Reynolds
Resource Profile: Oregon Health Plan
Oregon DHS logo
The Oregon Department of Human Services just announced that on October 20th they will draw 20,000 names from their list of registrants to select people to apply for the Oregon Health Plan (there will be drawings after this date as well).

With over 643,000 Oregonians uninsured, the Oregon Health Plan was created to provide free or low-cost health insurance to uninsured adults living below federal poverty income guidelines ($18,310 a year for a family of three).

If this seems like a good fit, add your name to the list now! So far, the registry only has 12,000 people on it - so sign up today! Unplanned for medical expenses can be a major source of ongoing debt and stress. Having health insurance is a key way to insure that your health needs are being met without paying an arm and a leg for it.

To get on the reservation list, call toll-free 1-800-699-9075. At that number you can also find out if you qualify for other health insurance programs as well. You can also sign up online.
For Our Borrowers

Are you receiving your payment reminders?

Money If you chose to receive your payment reminders by email, make sure that they are coming to your inbox and not your junk mail. If you would like to change the way that you receive reminders (by mail, by email, or by phone call) let us know! Call Talia at 503.943.5620 or Carmina at 503.943.5645.

How to make your loan payment
  • You can mail your payment by check or money order to Innovative Changes, 4610 N. Trenton St., Portland, OR 97203.
  • You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the New Columbia Opportunity Center Front Desk- Mon- Fri, 8am-5pm. (Please note the building is closed to the public during the lunch hour (12pm-1pm) and is occasionally closed on Fridays for State furlough days. The front desk person has envelopes and is authorized to collect payments on our behalf if we are not in. If you are paying in cash and need change, you must call Sarah at 503.943.5670, Carmina at 503.943.5645, or Talia at 503.943.5620 in advance to arrange a meeting time.
  • Carmina can accept payments at our Gresham location from 3pm-6pm or by appointment only on Fridays. The address is Gresham Village Square Community Room, 1625 SE Roberts Dr. Gresham, OR 97080. Call Carmina at 503.449.6299 to set up an appointment.

Upcoming changes to payment reminders

We are currently in the process of moving to a new loan software, so please be patient with us as we get our new systems in order. In the coming weeks, you might notice that you are receiving your payment reminders earlier than usual and that they look a little different than before. Let us know if you have any questions. Also, we hope to be offering an ACH option for loan payments very soon. This means that you can choose to have your loan payment automatically deducted from your bank account each month. Stay tuned for more details!

We are here to help!

Are you having trouble making your payment this month, or afraid that it might be a little late? Let us know! We understand that unexpected events and expenses can make it hard to keep your finances on track, and Innovative Changes wants to be there for you in such cases. Innovative Changes is flexible and willing to work with our borrowers to satisfy loan obligations, and in return we ask for honest and timely communication. Remember, if you know your payment is going to be late, let us know ahead of time and we might be able to avoid charging a late fee, or sending out a late notice.

Image credit: kevindooley