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Alan Prahl column: Financial Makeover Challenge offers many benefits

11:02 PM, Jan. 18, 2013  |  Comments
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Many people dream about reducing debt, saving money or improving their financial situation. Sometimes it's hard to move from thinking about making changes to actually making changes.

The fifth annual Money Smart Week Fox Cities Financial Makeover Challenge offers free individualized financial counseling to help people make positive financial changes in their lives. Four families were recently selected to work with financial counselors from Goodwill's FISC program from Dec. 15 to April 15. Each family will set goals like increasing savings, reducing debt, or reducing monthly expenses.

The winning family will receive $3,500. Each runner up family receives $750. The prize money is donated by some of the sponsoring organizations.

This year's participants include Ash-Leigh Kowalczyk of Kaukauna, Scott and Rhonda Dohms of Appleton, Alisha and Brandon Resch of Appleton and Kevin and Claire Welker of Appleton. The Makeover Challenge will encourage these families to make changes that will benefit them for a lifetime.

The Financial Makeover Challenge began more than six years ago. A group of people from local organizations, including credit unions, schools and nonprofits were brainstorming about ways to encourage people to make positive financial changes in their lives.

Lisa Hintz from Lakeview Credit Union shared the story of a credit union in Texas that was offering a makeover challenge. Many of the people who helped to get the challenge going in the Fox Cities are still involved with the challenge.

Working with a trained financial counselor offers many benefits. FISC's counselors can identify ways to save money, reduce debt more quickly, build balanced budgets and help people make genuine financial progress.

Lessons learned by past participants include:

"We realized we don't have to live paycheck to paycheck."

"Now we save up and decide if we want to buy something."

"Give your kids an allowance and limit their spending."

"Don't be afraid to seek help. You can be in a good spot."

Challenge sponsors include the Appleton Area School District, Appleton Public Library, Capital Credit Union, Coalesce Inc., Community First Credit Union, U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble's Office, DigiPrint, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, FISC, Forward Financial, Fox Communities Credit Union, Fox Valley Technical College, Lakeview Credit Union, Menasha Public Library, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Unison Credit Union, the Outagamie County UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and the Women's Fund for the Fox Valley Region.

If you want to be in a better place, check out the challenge videos at You don't have to participate in the challenge to makeover your finances.

- Alan Prahl is with FISC, a nonprofit program of Goodwill NCW.

He can be reached at

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