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Innovative Connections
Resource Toolkit for October 2011
In This Issue
Upcoming Events
Tip of the Month: Make Sure the Timing Matches Up!
Don't Get Caught in the Minimum Payment Trap!
Recap: Debt Collection Seminar
Resource: How to Negotiate to Pay Off a Debt
Upcoming Financial Education
Financial Planning Day is Coming Up!
Wills Clinic
Sign up for ACH
For Our Borrowers
Quick Links
Upcoming Events
Financial Planning Day

Saturday, October 22 from 10am-4pm 

The Portland Building, 1120 SW Fifth, 2nd floor, Portland

Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment Plans Seminar:
Tuesday, October 25th
5:30-6:30 pm
2011 Lloyd Center 


Financial Household
Workshops in Spanish:


*Day 1: Saturday, October 29th    

Part 1: Making Ends Meet, 10am-12pm

Part 2: Budgeting and Saving, 12:30pm-2:30pm


*Day 2: Saturday, November 5th 

Part 3: Hands-On Banking, 10am-12pm   

Part 4: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit, 12:30pm-2:30pm


3rd Floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (near Nordstroms), 2011 Lloyd Center, Portland

 *For more info or to register go here

Wills Clinic

Friday, October 28th, 3:45pm 

Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Avenue, Portland, OR 97212


WorkSource Holiday Hiring Event


Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 10:00 am - 1:30 pm

New Columbia Community Education Center, 4625 N Trenton Street, Portland, 97203




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Stay tuned for our November Innovative Connections Issue on:
Holiday Tips and Resources!

Lately, debt has been on our minds. Day after day we see clients burdened by heavy debt loads and not sure where to start. Because of this, we recently taught a seminar on Debt Collection (get the recap here) and are constantly asking ourselves: how do we most effectively help our clients make good decisions to get out of debt? 


The first most important thing when thinking about tackling your debt, is to ensure that all your current bills, expenses and immediate needs are paid for on time. Our tip of the month highlights a common issue we see: the timing of peoples' paychecks and bills do not match up. Once you feel secure about your current expenses, then you can start thinking about debt. In this issue, we warn you about falling into the minimum payment trap, give you tips and a script on how to negotiate and pay off a debt


As always, we also advise you to take advantage of free education opportunities- including our own classes (now being taught in Spanish) and seminar, upcoming Financial Planning Day, a clinic on writing wills and following last months theme on increasing your livlihood: a Holiday Hiring event. 


Enjoy this issue and stay tuned for next month's issue with tips, resources and information for having a stress-free holiday season!


Happy reading,

Innovative Changes

Tip of the Month: Make Sure the Timing Matches Up!tipofthemonth

* Send us your tips! 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.* 


clockToo many bills in the beginning of the month to give you room to breath?


Organize your due dates so that they align with your income. Follow these steps.


Step 1: Create a budget listing your bills and payment dates

  • You can use our paycheck planner here to map out how you will distribute each paycheck or source of income.
  • Make sure you are aware of the consequences of being late on a certain bill and what your grace period is.

Step 2: Match up those expenses with your income


Step 3: Ask yourself, is this working? Is there a better time in my schedule to pay this bill?


Step 4: If it is working- great! If not, you have many options:

  • Call your service provider to request a due date change.
  • Scale down to a cheaper phone, internet, cable, etc. plan.
  • Cut out an item from your budget entirely (only if this is realistic).
  • Set aside money from one pay period to carry over to the next. You can do this through a money order, savings account, or merely sticking cash in an envelope and storing it in a safe place!
  • Pay bills early during a pay period that you have extra money


Don't Get Caught in the Minimum Payment Trap!mainarticle 


In the beginning, most of us acquire and use credit cards with the best intentions of paying off the balance each month and building our credit. But, as time goes on and life happens, the credit cards can be misused when money is tight.  In what seems like no time the balance is in the four to five digits and feels completely overwhelming. Each month, you start to make minimum payments thinking that you are chipping away at debt little by little, but, after an entire year it seems like you haven't made a dent in the balance at all. This is because of the credit card company's dirty little secret:

The Minimum Payment Trap


credit cards 


What is it?

When the minimum payment towards your debt is almost entirely just covering the interest and not reducing the principal balance.


For example:

Credit card companies typically charge around 1.5% to 2.0% of your balance as your minimum payment charge. This means with $5,000 in debt you may only have to pay $75 a month. At an interest rate of 17% it will take over 16 years to pay off that balance and end up actually costing you over $14,000!


Why do you get stuck?

It's hard to prioritize paying off debt when you have so many immediate needs. It's natural to want to keep the money open and available for other things that you'll immediately benefit from, so you opt to make the smallest payment possible. Soon paying the minimum becomes a habit every month, and you don't realize how much it's costing us in the end.


How to free yourself from the trap:

Let's face it, many times, if you had the money to pay down debt you wouldn't have gotten into it in the first place. But, there is a way out. Make a new habit. Look for extra room in your budget, cut out unnecessary expenses and prioritize paying off debt. If your minimum payment is $50 per month, try to pay $75 instead. That extra bit of money in your payment makes a shockingly big difference in the length of your repayment. Additionally, when dealing with multiple cards, try to pay down the card with the highest interest rates first. There is a light at the end of the debt tunnel and you can get there faster than you think!


Contact our office for assistance in finding extra room in your budget and creating a debt-free action plan!


Written by Elizabeth Crowe

Recap: Debt Collection Seminarsecondarticle
   debt on your back

In September, Innovative Changes hosted a seminar on Debt Collection. The world of collections can be quite confusing and inconsistent, so Sarah Chenven (our former ED), set out to demystify what happens with your debt once it's in collections, and provided us with some great insight on your rights as a debtor. Here's a few key points learned at the seminar:

  • The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act was created to eliminate abusive debt collection practices, but only protects personal, family & household (not business) debt. This act dictates our rights as debtor and what a creditor can and can't do.
  • A creditor may not communicate with a debtor:
    • At any unusual time or place (consumer contact between hours of 8:00 a.m. & 9:00 p.m. local time where the consumer resides, unless consumer agrees otherwise)
    • At a time or place known to be inconvenient to consumer
    • At consumers place of employment if collector know or has reason to know employer prohibits such contact.
    • Collectors may not intimidate, use deception to cause consumer fear and anxiety, or harass consumer
  • There is a 6 year statute of limitations in Oregon to collect debt by creditor or debt collector- meaning creditors have 6 years to collect on a debt and if they haven't pursued it, you are not liable to pay the debt back to them. This statute of limitations begins from the date of last activity on debt. A creditor can still file suit against you after the statute of limitations has expired; however, you can ask the judge to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the statute of limitations has expired. 
    • If a debt collector contacts you regarding an old debt, do not admit that you owe the debt and do not agree to make any payments.  Simply tell them that the "statute of limitations has run on this debt and do not contact me again".  If they continue contacting you, send them a certified letter, return receipt requested, telling them not to contact you about the debt again.  Remember -- DO NOT ADMIT THAT YOU OWE THE DEBT, DO NOT AGREE TO PAY THE DEBT, AND DO NOT AGREE TO SEND ANY MONEY TO THEM.  If you do, then the statute of limitations might start running all over again, giving them the legal right to sue you.
  • As a debtor you can protect yourself by:

-          Keeping a record of all verbal & written communications with debt collectors and creditors

-          Sending written communications via certified mail, return-receipt requested

-          Watching out for notices of judgments (could lead to garnishments)

-          Making a plan: settle debts, monitor you credit report to make sure debts come off when they should.


*See below on strategies for negotiating debt payments!


Resource: How to Negotiate to Pay Off a Debtspecialmonth

debt collectorDo you have debt that you are planning to take care of on your credit report? It is usually better to pay that debt off all at once, whether you pay it in full or negotiate a settlement. Getting in a payment plan, can mean smaller and more manageable payments, but may cost you more in the long run. (Read above to learn about the minimum payment trap.) If your debt is accruing interest, it will keep accruing as you make your payments and each time you make a payment, that date will stay on your report for 7 more years (the 7 years is triggered by your date of last activity). When you pay a debt off at once: it's stops accruing interest, it will stay on your credit report for seven more years listed as paid in full or settled and you have one less creditor calling you and one less bill to pay (or think about having to pay) each month. So we advise you to save to settle, but remember to get everything in writing!


Here are some tips from the Credit Builder's Alliance on how to negotiate a lump sum payment:


Step 1: Create a list of all outstanding debt including the following information:

  • Original Creditor
  • Collection Agency
  • First Date of Delinquency - this base date for calculating 7 years when it will drop off the credit report
  • Outstanding Debt
  • Total the Outstanding Debt

Step 2: Rank the outstanding debt in terms of urgency:

  • Debt associated with a civil judgment may be a first priority to avoid wage garnishment.
  • If a debt is still with original creditor, it may be beneficial to negotiate this first before it is transferred to a collection agency. Original creditors are often easier to deal with. Also, debts still with original may have more recent delinquency dates and be making a more negative impact on the credit score. While it is still preferable to negotiate a lump sum payment with the original creditor (i.e. medical provider, telephone company), negotiating a payment plan is probably preferable than the account being sent to collection.
  • If first delinquency date is more than 5 years old, it will be dropping off the credit report in the next 24 months regardless of payment status. This may be a lower priority.

 Step 3: Prepare to offer a one-time lump sum settlement for each outstanding debt.


If a collection debt balance is too large to pay off all at once consider the potential of:

  • Using an upcoming tax return refund to settle the balance
  • Saving up for a few months and then offering a lump sum
  • Request a low-cost, low-interest loan from a trusted financial institution to consolidate and pay off all debt and use the new loan to start to re-build credit.

 Step 5: Call the Collection Agency or Original Creditor to negotiate lump sum payment.


Making a first offer at about 33% of the actual outstanding debt can be a good place to start.


First Approach:

"This is Ms. Smith, I recently became aware of a collection on my credit report, Account # XXXXX. I currently have $200 which I can apply toward this debt, will you accept that as payment in full on this account?"


"This is Mr. Smith and I recently became aware of several collection accounts on my credit report. I am working with several collection agencies to settle these accounts. According to my records, I owe you $300. Will you accept $100 as payment in full, or should I give that $100 to another collection agency?"


Potential Creditor Responses:

They may accept this offer, make a counter-offer or refuse the offer. If they accept the offer, be sure to request a written, faxed, or e-mailed receipt that the debt has been settled in full once the payment has been made.



If they reject the offer, a follow-up can be: "What will you accept as a payment in full?" If they are unwilling to negotiate, there are three more options:

1. Hang-up and redial the creditor again. Often it is possible to reach another representative willing to negotiate

2. Move onto another collection account and try negotiations with them

3. Offer to pay the account in full and get a receipt.

In some cases, collection balances may not be negotiated. This most often occurs when the original creditor has hired a collection agency to collect the debt, but has not actually sold it to the collection agency. If this is the case, the balance MAY need to be paid in full.


Step 6: Request a Written Receipt for Payment and Follow up to ensure that payment information is correctly reported on the credit report


Shortly after settlements have been made on an account, it is beneficial to send a letter to each of the credit bureaus to expedite the process of correcting the outstanding debt information. This will expedite the collection agency to update that the debt has been settled in full. And, the client may get lucky and the collection agency, happy to have its money and no longer interested in the debt, may decide not to verify the information and the collection account might be removed completely from the credit report.



Upcoming Financial Education: fined 


No time like the present! Sign up for our Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment Plan seminar and Financial Household Resiliency workshops today! Here is the schedule:


Seminar: Student Loan Consolidation and Repayment Plans


Tuesday, October 25th 2011, 5:30-6:30pm

Lloyd Center Mall, 3rd Floor


In this workshop participants will learn how to take an inventory of outstanding student loans, keep student loans in good standing, and create a manageable plan for repayment. Other topics of interest will include: the consequences of student loan default, how to rehabilitate student loans that are in default, the Income Based Repayment plan and its benefits, and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.


Other Upcoming Seminars:


De-stress During the Holidays: Holiday Finances 101 

Kenton Library on Saturday, November 19th from 4:00-5:30pm Midland Library on Monday, December 5 from 6:30-8pm

Troutdale Library on Wednesday, November 30 from 6-7:30pm


The holiday season is a stressful time. In collaboration with Multnomah County Libraries, this seminar will equip interested individuals, with tools and resources to minimize stress during through the holiday season. The first part of the seminar will be facilitated by a professional shopper who will give insider tips on shopping for the holidays. Then, we will discuss topics such as: managing holiday stress, saving and budgeting for the holidays, figuring out what the holidays mean to you and how to bring your family together during the holidays in a low cost way. We will also have information from other organizations in the community that provide specific holiday resources (food, gifts, clothes...etc) for individuals and families during this time. So come, bring your family and start taking steps to get through the holiday season in an enjoyable way!


Tax Time 101: Be Prepared!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012, 5:30-6:30pm, Lloyd Center Mall, 3rd Floor


Please join Maggie Starr of CASH Oregon, Rebecca Flanegan, tax attorney and tax site manager and Talia Kahn-Kravis of IC$ for an hour packed full of information to get you ready to do taxes and ensure you are making informed choices when you are filing for and receiving your refund. Topics will include: An overview of taxes and the mechanics of filing your taxes, available tax credits, what documents you will need when filing, where to do your taxes for free or low cost and how to stay in control of your paycheck, refund and expenses throughout the year! 


To Register: call or email Talia at (503)-249-5205 or


*These seminars are part of our ongoing monthly seminar series covering special topics of interest to our clients. For more information about our seminar visit our website here.


Financial Household Resiliency Workshops in Spanish:


Day 1: Saturday, October 29th   

Part 1: Making Ends Meet, 10am-12pm

Part 2: Budgeting and Saving, 12:30pm-2:30pm                       


Day 2: Saturday, November 5th 

Part 3: Hands-On Banking, 10am-12pm   

Part 4: Building, Repairing and Protecting Credit, 12:30pm-2:30pm 

Our classes and seminars will be held at our Lloyd Center Office:

 3rd Floor of the Lloyd Center Mall (near Nordstroms), 2011 Lloyd Center, Portland


To Register: call or email Talia at (503)-249-5205/


The classes and seminars are $5 each or $15 for all four classes. Fee waivers are available for those who qualify.
Financial Planning Day is Coming Up this Saturday!        specialevent                      

What: In today's uncertain economy, planning for you financial future is more important than ever.  If you have financial questions or concerns, or would like to learn how to better manage your finances, City of Portland invites you to Financial Planning Day, where you'll have an opportunity to receive free, personalized, confidential answers from professional financial planners.  


When: The event will be held on Saturday, October 22 from 10am-4pm 


Where: The Portland Building, 1120 SW Fifth, 2nd floor, Portland


Why go?: At the event, experts from the Financial Planning Association and highly qualified Certified Financial Planner™ professionals will be stationed at tables and will meet with you one-on-one to offer free personalized advice on a variety of financial topics, including - getting out of debt, retirement planning, investment strategies, tax issues, insurance, and estate planning, among many others.


There are no strings attached! All financial planners are participating as volunteers and they will not be selling products or services, or giving out business cards.  Come as you are, or come prepared with any financial paperwork related to your questions.  And, you can consult with as many different financial planners as you need.


Walk-ins are welcome, but admission will be granted first to those who have registered online  here or by calling toll free at 877-861-7826.  We expect a large crowd, so we encourage you to register early.


Find out more about who will be there and what workshops will be offered here.


And, check out this video to see what past participants have said about Financial Planning Day. We hope to see you there!fp photo

More Events!:
Wills Clinic & Holiday Hiringmoreevents


Wills Clinic 

 Friday, October 28th, 3:45pm 

Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Avenue, Portland, 97212

Do you have a legal Will in place? 
Do you have your health care intentions 
confirmed in a written document, an Oregon Advanced Directive? 


If you need either a Will or Advance Directive, you are invited to register for this free Wills and Advance Directive pro bono legal clinic, brought to you by Oregon New Lawyers Division of the Oregon State Bar, the Young Lawyers Section of the Multnomah Bar Association, Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the Oregon Law Center. There will be attorneys on site to meet with up to 20 pre-qualified individuals. 


Call 503-224-4086 to complete a pre-clinical financial questionnaire to see if you qualify and to schedule an appointment. Space is limited so call now!




WorkSource Oregon Holiday Hiring Event 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 10:00 am - 1:30 pm


New Columbia Community Education Center

4625 N Trenton Street, Portland, OR 97203


holiday jobs

WorkSource Oregon is hosting a holiday hiring event at which employers will be recruiting candidates to cover the upcoming holiday rush and to fill immediate needs and regular job openings. 


Targeted positions will include sales, retail, customer service, labor, stock, warehouse, office, office management, production and much more!


Reminder: Dress to make a good first impression, bring writing materials and a resume with you.

We Can Now ACH Your Loan Payments! ach                             

We now have the ability to automatically withdraw funds from your account to make your loan payment for you.This is called Automatic Clearing House (ACH) and is an electronic network that allows us to direct deposit your loan payments into our account. If you would like to sign up for this, please fill out the form on attached here and send or fax it back to us (please do not email for security reasons). ACH is a good idea if you have a bank account and a reliable balance in your account on your monthly loan due date. If this does not fit you, ACH is not the best option.  If you have any questions, as always, feel free to give us a call: 503-249-5205.

For Our Borrowers

Money treeAre You Receiving Your Payment Reminders?

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  or Carmina at 503.249-5205.

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 or 2011 Lloyd Center, Portland, OR 97232.
  • 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 contact Sarah, Carmina or Talia in advance to arrange a meeting time.    
  • You can drop off your payment (check, money order or cash) at the Lloyd Center, 3rd Floor, Suite 2011 (2011 Lloyd Center Mall, Portland, OR 97232) Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm and Saturdays by appointment (call Carmina). 
  • You can also pay via pay pal by following directions on our website here. Please note, it asks you to fill in a donation amount, but this is not a donation, it will go towards your loan payment.             

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.