Meet the Banker: Credit Building Workshop | November 2021

Are you interested in improving your credit? Do you know your credit score but can’t seem to make it budge? Do you want to learn how to use your credit score to get better rates on loans or other credit products?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, join HFLA of Northeast Ohio for a free, virtual workshop on credit building with our community partners at Citizens Bank. HFLA will bring two credit specialists from Citizens who will walk us through the basics to understanding your credit score all the way through to the complexities around leveraging your credit when applying for future loans or purchasing a car.

What you’ll get: time with an expert, an applied activity, and an opportunity to voice your concerns and questions about personal credit and credit building in a safe environment.

We know how important your credit is and we are here to bring you the resources you need to reach your financial goals. We hope you are able to take advantage of this awesome program that will keep you on track to success!

Thursday, November 18, 2021 || 6:30 p.m.

Virtual, via Zoom, you will receive the link after registering

Did you miss us live? Find the full recording and slides for the presentation below. 

Meet the Banker Resources

Meet our Credit Experts!

Brandon Beachler has over 17 years of experience in banking, with a strong focus on consumer and business credit. He currently serves as a VP, Business Relationship Manager for Business Banking clients at Citizens.

He enjoys learning about his business clients in order to provide near and long-term solutions. 

 Outside of work, Brandon spends time with his wife, two kids, two dogs (Trixie & Cuya) and goldfish (Nemo). He enjoys anything outside, playing basketball, running, biking and playing music.

Kiesha Wilson is a Vice President and Multiple-Site Branch Manager at Citizens. With 25 years in the financial services industry, Kiesha has vast working experience in personal banking, credit cards and home mortgage.

Kiesha loves helping people meet their financial goals by increasing their financial education, confidence and knowledge of financials services that can assist them.

Kiesha is a proud mom of two children, ages 21 and 19.  She enjoys riding her new Peloton and is a diehard Cleveland sports fan.

Debt Exchange Loan Program

Debt Exchange Loan Program

August 5, 2021 | Program Director, Brady Gasser

Since 1904, the HFLA of Northeast Ohio has provided interest-free loans for individuals with needs that cannot be met by the mainstream lending industry. Our creative approach to relationship lending has allowed us to continuously make sense of our changing world and adapt our offerings accordingly. Most recently, we have made some exciting changes to address needs for debt refinancing and consolidation.

Many in our community find themselves with punishing or unsustainable debt obligations. Personal loans from non-traditional institutions can be accessed online, but with absurdly high interest rates.

This would be the most obvious example. However, even some standard rates and practices, like those found with private student lenders are more than suboptimal. An individual may have felt like they were forced into taking on bad debt because they did not see another path out of their predicament; or they could regret past decisions because they were uninformed about the true ramifications at the time they took on the debt. Learning the hard way is one thing, but some debts are so egregious that no amount of struggle by the individual can meaningfully correct a wrong move.

Our Debt Exchange Loan Program is designed to help individuals strengthen their financial position by trading in overly burdensome interest-bearing debts for an interest-free loan.

This loan can be used to address up to $10k in debts like private student loans (not issued from the government), credit cards, “payday” and other personal loans, and collections accounts. The total amount of such debt held by Northeast Ohioans is much more than HFLA will be able to exchange. As a small non-profit, we are only able to help those who are truly in need. Therefore, good candidates will be able to clearly express a strong need to exchange the debt, have a specific personal financial plan, and show a commitment to the betterment of their financial wellbeing. Working with a partnering financial coach may be a prerequisite to qualify based on an assessment by HFLA staff.

Once the debt is exchanged, individuals will see many immediate and long term benefits that can multiply. First, once the debt is paid off with the original creditor, it will stop accruing interest, which will save the individual money in the long term. Many individuals will see a lower monthly repayment with HFLA, which can free up money in their monthly budget to put towards necessities, other debts, or savings. Whether it is because of a new lower monthly payment or gaining the ability to pay off debt more quickly, some will see an improvement in their debt to income ratio, which can help them access a larger, prime loan that they may need (like a home equity line of credit). For those that exchanged revolving debt (credit cards), they will see an immediate improvement in their credit score as their credit utilization will decrease dramatically. Additionally, HFLA does not necessarily require that revolving accounts that are paid off be closed, so this increase in credit score will last as long as the accounts are kept at a zero dollar balance. Paying off collections accounts can get collections agencies off of your back and can help increase your credit score for some scoring models.

Please call or email our program department to find out how you may be able to qualify and benefit from the Debt Exchange Loan Program. Personal guarantors (outside of a borrower’s household) are required for any loan applicant.

216-378-9042 menu option #1

Savings Strategies for a Tight Budget

While HFLA of Northeast Ohio is here to provide interest-free loans to those who need them, the ultimate goal is to not need one. How? Meet your new best friend – a Savings Plan.

Ideally, a savings account or emergency fund can give you the cash you need in times of crisis without relying on loans or cash advances.

Unfortunately, we are all currently stuck smack in the middle of a global health crisis. A crisis that is having a major impact not only on our daily lives and health, but especially on our income and personal savings. Fortunately, many of us will be receiving a tax refund that can give our finances a boost. While cash during this crisis may feel like the answer to all your problems right now, it is important to use this money wisely and to think long-term. This can help you take effective steps towards a long-term savings plan to get you and your family through this pandemic and find financial security in the future.

What is an Emergency Fund?

The rule of thumb for an “Emergency Fund” is 3 months worth of living expenses in your savings account. The reality however, is that many Americans struggle to come up with $1,000 in an emergency. We at HFLA do feel that it is crucial to develop an emergency fund however, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. A slow and steady strategy will allow you to gradually and reasonably work up to your savings goals.

Observing prudent savings strategies now will make a world of difference once we all come out the other side of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Take Advantage of  Your Tax Refund in 2 Ways

Luckily for many of us, income tax refunds can provide some much needed “bonus” cash that can be used to stabilize your finances.

1.   Add one month of living expenses to your savings

You just worked out your monthly expenses, so if you can, add that total to your savings now with your tax refund!

Remember to include: rent/mortgage, food, utilities, car note, minimum credit card payments, and insurance. Can you take this amount out of your tax refund? If yes, put that into your savings IMMEDIATELY! If not, try to put a portion of that into your savings and strive to save the rest up throughout the year.

2.   Catch up on collections or due balances

Review your credit report on to see if you are behind on any collections or any accounts.

Use your tax refund to give your credit a boost and get caught up on things that are too big to tackle all at once. Consider speaking to a financial coach or financial counselor to help you with clear goals on what debts to tackle first.

3 Tips to Start Saving Without Breaking the Bank!

Some simple ways to start reaching your financial goals, even on a tight budget. 

1.   Make a SMART plan for your savings goal

Let’s say you want to save up one month’s living expenses, equaling $500, in one year.

Your specific goal is to contribute one month’s living expenses to savings measured to be $500 total. Your regularly measured goal equals $42 a month over 12 months. You check, “Is this goal attainable with my current income and expenses?” If yes, stick with it! If no, lower the measurable goal to something that fits within your budget. You ask, “Is this goal relevant, will it help me in the long run?” Yes! You will eventually have one month of living expenses that could be relevant during an emergency! You set a goal date of 12 months to keep your goal time-bound



Once you’ve achieved one SMART goal, make another! Check out this worksheet from and create your own.

2.   Set up direct deposit and “pay yourself” first

If you haven’t already, set up direct deposit to get your paychecks into your bank account quickly and safely.

Every time you receive a paycheck, “pay yourself” first! Take a predetermined amount from your paycheck and deposit it into your savings account before spending anything! By contributing a small portion of every paycheck into your savings account, you are growing your savings fund at least once a month without having any time to to spend it. Some banks also offer automatic savings that directly takes a designated amount of your paycheck each time. Even $5 a paycheck can go a long way when you stick with it!     

3.     Become a “Brown-Bagger”  

Making the change from buying to packing lunch is definitely a lifestyle commitment, but one that can save you thousands of dollars annually.

One cup of coffee a week can be anywhere from $2-$5 dollars. That alone adds up to at least $100 a year! Getting takeout can be inexpensive, but still at least $5 a day. Make your coffee at home, plan your meals the day before, and put that money back in the bank! Every time you feel the urge to buy food or coffee instead of making it yourself, total up what you are about to spend and put that money into your savings instead. You’ll be amazed to see how much you would have spent!

And most importantly, don’t touch your savings account!

Keep your hands out of your savings account as much as you can. Treat it like it is money only to be spent in an emergency. Schedule dates where you check on it’s growth. You’ll be surprised with how much you’ve put away in such a short time by keeping your hands off and eyes out!     

About HFLA of Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio was founded in 1904 with $501 donated by Charles Ettinger, Morris Black, and their friends to help European refugees settle and begin productive lives in this country. They believed – as we do now – that if you give someone a chance to succeed, they will pay it back and we can continue this transformative cycle. The same principle guides the organization today. By providing interest-free loans to individuals, families, and small businesses in the Northeast Ohio area, we are able to help people help themselves. The association has drastically increased its lending capital in the past few years from individual gifts, bequests, endowments, foundation grants, memorials and honorariums and is now operating with a loan fund of over $1 million. HFLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Learn more about HFLA.

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