News Archive March/April 2014

Women and Money: Gaining Control and Avoiding Financial Mistakes

In honor of Financial Literacy Month, women and money were the topics of the day at the Forum April membership meeting. Rachel Malone, Forum chair and Merrill Lynch senior financial advisor, and Sue Matkin, vice president of community development, United Way, explained how women can gain control of their finances and avoid financial mistakes.


Because women tend to be the primary caretakers of children and parents, they leave the workforce for as much as ten to fifteen years, which affects their pay, social security income and 401K contributions. For this reason, Malone said it is even more critical women create a plan and keep their money working effectively for them.


Although women are often good at saving for retirement, they sometimes let their fear of becoming ‘bag ladies’ sabotage their long term financial planning goals. She recommended that women develop a financial plan that incorporates all the individual’s unique challenges, such as, long-term care (70 percent of women 65 years and older will require long-term care at some point in our lives), asset allocation risk, stock market risk, bond market risk, longevity risk, and inflation. In her presentation,


Matkin discussed the impact of low wages or an interruption in pay on women. She said the United Way is building relationships with banks and credit unions to help those affected by low wages or lack of bank accounts. Many families resort to high interest payday loans to get by.


Sixty percent of national payday loan profits are in Texas because of the state’s lax regulatory climate. “Payday lenders are located primarily in working class neighborhoods which makes them convenient,” she said. Matkin added that it’s important to understand how family history and the lack of financial resources affect financial decisions if agencies and organizations want to help change the cycle.


During tax season, the United Way funds the volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program for families making under $52,000 a year. In order to serve more families next year, VITA needs volunteers beginning next January.

Dr. Lauralee Harris, founder Mental Health Court Diversion Program

Dr. Lauralee Harris Honored for Inspiring Successful Mental Health Court Diversion Program


Recently, Tarrant County Court Judge Brent Carr recognized Dr. Lauralee Harris, Forum member, for being the catalyst that sparked development of the Tarrant County Mental Health Court Diversion Program a decade ago.


Carr presented Dr. Harris with a certificate of appreciation in his court before an audience of defendants, families, caseworkers, counselors and attorneys who were there to report client progress. Since the court’s inception, the court has served 418 individuals with 386 successfully completing the program and 85 percent having no new Tarrant County charges. Those who successfully complete the three-step court diversion program are eligible to have their charges expunged.


Dr. Harris'  certificate read: “You exemplify the forethought and dedication that is required to achieve excellence and success in diverting the non-violent mentally ill offender from the criminal justice system. There would be no specialty court program of this type in Tarrant County without your passion for the betterment of the community."


The Mental Health Court was developed in Fort Worth through the Mental Health and Criminal Justice project of the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County when Dr. Harris served as Executive Director. It was part of a continuum of services developed through MHA, starting in 1997, which included the Mental Health/Law Enforcement Liaison project for arrest diversion, law enforcement.


“During their court appearances that day, every person received applause, acknowledgement of their progress no matter how small, and encouragement to stay on track. Judge Carr has done an amazing job with this court and the results speak for themselves,” said Dr. Harris. “I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.”

Mayor Betsy Price Explains City of Fort Worth $292 Million Bond Proposal Headed for May 10 Vote


At the March 12 membership meeting, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price encouraged fellow women leaders to “get educated” on the city bond package, which she said will finance street improvements, invest in law enforcement and fund other municipal services without raising taxes.


“Fort Worth is experiencing strong growth and our roads must keep up; otherwise, it won’t be pretty,” she said. She emphasized that Fort Worth has a good ratio of debt to revenue and is taking in more money in taxes and other revenue than it’s spending.


She added: “We’re in a good place with a record number of building permits in 2013 and $2.5 billion in residential construction."


The $292 million package will finance, in addition to $219 million in street construction, improvements to park, recreation and community centers, libraries, fire stations, municipal courts and facilities, and animal care and control centers. The bond election will also authorize financing for the Crime Control and Prevention District for the next five years.


Mayor Price said the city sought suggestions for the bond package in a number of ways, including an online survey that generated 70 percent of the taxpayer comments received.Early voting begins April 28.




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WOMEN’S POLICY FORUM   |      P.O. Box 11246   Fort Worth, Texas 76110