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Charles County citizens are learning that despite the unfavorable economic climate, it is still possible to save money to prepare for the unexpected.

In September, the Charles County commissioners declared Feb. 25 through March 2 the first Charles County Saves Week. The week, according to Assets for Financial Independence Foundation President Lolita Curtis, is “a week set aside to remind people about the importance of saving, particularly for retirement and emergencies and building personal wealth.”

If you go

The Assets for Financial Independence Foundation will host a seminar 2 p.m. March 2 at the Waldorf West library, 10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf. The topic of the seminar will be “Developing Money Smart Habits.” The seminar is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 240-345-3175, email info@charlescountysaves.org or go to CharlesCountySaves.org.

AFFIF has hosted seminars in the county to teach citizens the basics for good financial habits, and how little expenses in day-to-day life can add up. So far, Curtis said, seminars have been held for organizations including the Charles County Department of Social Services, the Nanjemoy Community Center, Walmart in La Plata and Servants of Christ Ministries.

“All the seminars have scored exceptionally high based on the data collected at the conclusion of the seminars, so from that vantage point, they are very popular,” Curtis said. “I think the seminars are well-received because the information is simple and achievable. ... The information is not too technical: it’s plain English and not intimidating. I’ve learned that if people are overwhelmed with the information, they do nothing, so I consciously designed the seminars to speak to middle-class Americans.”

At each seminar, Curtis said, the theme remains the same.

“The overarching theme of the seminars is spending is what prevents us from saving and not what we earn,” Curtis said. “We discuss how the small expenses, the unnecessary spending is what keeps many people from saving and that those small expenditures add up to amazing large amounts when evaluated in totality.”

Curtis also said the 52 Week Saving Challenge, which she discusses at each seminar, helps put attendees on the road to financial success. In the challenge, participants put aside a little more money each week, beginning with one dollar in the first week and eventually growing to $52 set aside in the final week. Ultimately, Curtis said, participants save $1,378 over the course of the year.

According to an AFFIF press release, Curtis has hosted 21 seminars that 377 people have attended. At the conclusion of the savings week, another seminar will be hosted at the Waldorf West library.

Kim Hicks-Dye, Charles County government TV station manager, said that when she shot an interview with Curtis, she was inspired to have her family attend the seminar.

“I’ve always tried to save for a rainy day, because I know that the rain will come,” Hicks-Dye, a regular consumer of financial advice, said. “But I still learned from this. I definitely benefited.”

Hicks-Dye and her family attended Curtis’ seminar in January.

“What I love is that she says it’s doable to save. It’s not pie in the sky,” Hicks-Dye said. “She teaches small steps. As a result, I started packing my lunch now. It’s helped a lot. Every time I eat out, I remember what she told us about how the money can add up.”

Hicks-Dye said she plans to do the 52 Week Saving Challenge but has not yet begun.

“In the end, it’s all benefited my family. I would definitely recommend taking the class,” Hicks-Dye said, adding that she likely will attend another seminar.

Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said he admires AFFIF’s goal of instilling financial sense in county residents.

“It’s very important for citizens to have as much information as possible about being financially literate, and distributing the information is critical in education,” Robinson said. “We’ve partnered to help smooth the path for citizens. I applaud them for hosting the activities they’ve set up.”

lrenner@somdnews.com