Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Opinion

Hooper: After living through them, she pulls people out of credit woes

Atlanta, a place known for rising from the ashes of the Civil War to become an international city, proved to be a perfect backdrop for Artricia James-Heard’s own rise from what she calls "a very vulnerable time in her life."

It was there that James-Heard escaped a failing and abusive marriage and found a safe haven with a girlfriend. Over time, however, the friendship dissolved as a relationship grew with her girlfriend’s brother, Michael.

That left her and Michael without a place to stay, bad credit and few options.

Serendipity — or a higher power — led her and Michael to a suburban home for rent where an owner, Curtis Seal, asked to review their credit reports so he could have peace of mind. The reports proved unfavorable, but instead of rejecting them, Seal forced them to create a cash-flow plan to show how they would cover rent, pay debtors and improve their credit.

In essence, Seal became a financial counselor, guiding them through the debt repayment plan while allowing them to rent the home. He reviewed their efforts each month, and James-Heard learned while boosting her finances as a Naval reservist.

"He really made the experience good for us so we could become homeowners," Heard-James said. "He said, ‘Okay I’m going to rent to you, but you gotta make sure you work this plan.’

"If all goes well I’ll be more than happy to sell you my house."

From those early lessons, Heard-James began to slowly grow smarter about finances as she grew closer to Michael and eventually married him.

Even after they relocated to Tampa and MacDill Air Force Base, and she moved from reservist to active duty, the couple continued to acquire knowledge about credit, renting and buying homes.

When it finally came time buy a home 10 years ago, their credit standing and savings qualified them for the house of their choice.

But that was just the beginning. Heard-James shared her life lessons with a friend, helping the friend’s credit jump from 463 to a 650 in a period of eight months.

The friend’s Plant City-based mortgage company asked, "Who have you been working with? We’ve never seen someone’s credit improve so much in such a short time."

The mortgage company began referring others to her and the side business eventually blossomed into a full-time company: A Right Way Credit Counseling. Now Heard-James, a retired veteran, holds a masters from the University of South Florida in entrepreneurship and maintains an office in New Tampa.

She’s since worked closely with certified financial planner Sherida Ferguson, helping people with the baby steps while Ferguson elevates their finances when they’ve reached more solid ground.

Ferguson and Heard-James say they can help those gripped with that lonely feeling that comes with credit problems.

"They’re not alone if they realize they need to do something with their finances," Ferguson said. "There are people like us out there that can help them. I know I can help anybody, but I can’t help everybody."

The emotional toll of debt can prompt people to break down. James-Heard keeps tissues on her desk and when clients ask why, she quickly replies, "You’re going to need it."

But she points out they always feel better. It’s difficult revealing a lack of financial literacy, but it’s the first step to improvement.

"I understand because I’ve lived it," James-Heard said.

James-Heard said one of her biggest achievements is getting people away from the pawn shop. In a sense, I guess that’s chapter one in getting a phoenix to rise from the ashes.

That’s all I’m saying.

Comments
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18