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Free class offers financial lessons for women
Program sponsored by WomenSource helps attendees better manage credit
Brenau University senior Frankie Burns balances her checkbook Tuesday. Burns recently completed a seven-week financial stability course through a partnership with WomenSource and CredAbiltiy, a financial counseling nonprofit group. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Financial planning course

What: CredAbility is planning to hold four financial planning courses in Hall County. Dates and times are still being confirmed.

Cost: Free

More info: Those interested in attending should call 404-276-4509 or e-mail


Shannon Furnas recently checked her personal credit report and looked over the itemized list of bank loans and credit cards dating back 28 years.

The problem is, Furnas is only 32 years old.

It didn't make any sense.

But there it was, a JCPenney card opened in her name in October 1982 when she was just 5 years old.

"I couldn't believe it," Furnas said. "And I didn't want to believe it. I still don't know who it was."

Furnas only pulled her credit report because she had signed up for a seven-week financial stability course offered through a partnership with WomenSource and CredAbiltiy, a financial counseling nonprofit group. The class was funded by a grant and given at no cost to the attendees. This is the second time WomenSource, a networking and empowerment group for women in Northeast Georgia, has sponsored the program.

"Had she not pulled her credit report she never would have known," said the course instructor, Lisa Ray, who is also helping Furnas expunge the card from her credit history. "And these are the things that we find in credit reports all of the time."

On Tuesday night, 14 women attended the program's last class and a short graduation ceremony. Over the last seven weeks, the group has learned about defining financial goals, separating needs and wants, and improving their credit scores. The last class focused on building a support team.

Ray encouraged the women to be prepared with supporters ranging from day care providers to friends who can lend money in a pinch. The best time to get those resources organized, she said, is when you don't need them. She also reminded the women that while it's often easy to lean on others for support, it's not always necessary.

"You've got to be able to look in the mirror first. Right?" Ray said. "You've got to be able to look and see where you are. Sometimes we jump too quickly to ask for financial support. Sometimes we can do it, but that means we can't eat out next week."

At 22 years old, Frankie Burns was one of the youngest attendees. When her mother first encouraged Burns and her 18-year-old sister to sign up, she was skeptical. But Burns said she learned being fairly new to the financial planning world made the lessons more valuable.

"I'm so young. I can start now and really get on a good course with my finances," said the Brenau University senior. "...The main thing she taught us was how to separate our money and how to budget for each of those accounts. She mentioned a plan where you have your ‘wants' in one bank account and your ‘needs' in another bank account."

Gainesville City Council member Myrtle Figueras attended the graduation ceremony and praised the women for taking charge of their finances, saying strong societies are built on strong financial awareness.

"To me, knowledge is power," she said. "And to me, you've made yourself powerful because you know how to deal with your checkbooks."

Ray said she is working to bring four similar classes, aimed at both men and women, to Hall County. She has secured grant money for the classes through the city of Gainesville and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is working on finalizing locations.

"A lot of times people have goals on their mind, but they don't have a method of reaching them, and it's just this dream in their mind that they've never put on paper,..." she said. "And when you take a class like this you actually start placing things in order of ‘How am I going to do it?' and it becomes something you can accomplish."