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What you ?don't know ?CAN hurt you; Many Americans say their financial ?knowledge is lacking. But there's a way to fix that. ?Many local groups offer courses and workshops ?to help consumers learn about money.

As if the recent years of financial dread weren't enough proof, a recent survey confirms that personal financial management is not our strong suit.

Consider this from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling 2012 financial literacy survey.

*More than half of Americans don't have a budget.

*42 percent gave their personal finance knowledge a grade of ?C, D or F.

*80 percent admitted they could benefit from advice from a financial professional.

"The key findings show Americans know that they don't know," said Gail Cunningham, vice president of membership and public relations for the NFCC. "Personal finance is very complex; it's a moving target, and that's why they're giving themselves bad grades and 80 percent hunger for information."

But the information is available in abundance and it's free. Local residents can get their fill on financial education in workshops throughout Western New York.

Community organizations, ?like the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, offer a comprehensive slate of classes – from budgeting to credit rebuilding to borrowing home loans – that ?can help you get your financial house in order.

"A lot of people learned their lesson and are paying closer attention to their finances, especially since 2008 when the financial world came crashing down," said Paul C. Atkinson, CEO of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, one of the NFCC's more than 750 community-based offices around the country. "We've seen a doubling in the past two years in our workshop attendance; it's invaluable information."

Yet even with the recession-fueled spike in attendance, the level of interest in financial literacy classes at NFCC sites nationwide doesn't jibe with the jarring findings of its survey, Cunningham said.
"We should have lines outside of our doors, and we don't," she said.

Cunningham said people just don't know about the financial education opportunities. And for those who cannot make it to a class, personal finance management information can be found online, at libraries and other sources.

Cunningham said many falsely believe their financial situations are beyond salvageable, "but they are doing themselves and their families a huge disservice by not reaching out for help."

To take advantage of the local offerings, a call to 211 is a good starting point to get information on courses in your community. Financial education isn't just for those grappling with money issues, though.
"It's for anybody, absolutely," Atkinson said. "Ninety percent of the people who enroll don't have a problem; these are people who don't want to trip up." There is an hourlong, budgeting class, "Dollars & Sense," open to individuals as young as middle schoolers.

"If they learn it now, it will carry over into adulthood," Atkinson said. "It's really one of the most important tools any young person can have."

The Consumer Credit Counseling Service's "Dollars & Sense" and other workshops are held monthly at its location in West Seneca. Upon request, its staff will host sessions at community centers, churches and schools.

The Creating Assets, Savings & Hope Coalition, a cadre of more than 60 community financial service organizations committed to assisting low- to moderate-income families, also offers on-site workshops, dispatches experts to community sites and provides one-on-one sessions.

The Belmont Housing Resources for Western New York is a CASH member, and it offers financial classes for its clients and the general public.

"The demand for workshops has increased in the last few years," said Sandra Becker, senior housing program manager, "people are trying to get their ducks in a row for financial sustainability and homeownership."

Here are some organizations that have ongoing workshops and training:

*Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, 40 Gardenville Parkway, West Seneca; (716) 712-2064.

*HomeFront Buffalo, 780 Fillmore Ave.; (716) 856-2952.

*CASH Coalition, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, 742 Delaware Ave.; for one-on-one mentoring and group presentations, call Katie Lyons at (716) 887-2671.

*Jericho Road Ministries, 184 Barton St., training program for refugees; (716) 348-3000.
*Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, 1195 Main St.; (716) 884-8026.

*Child & Family Services, 330 Delaware Ave.; (716) 842-2750.

*Lt. Col. Matt Urban Hope Center, 385 Paderewski St.; (716) 893-7222

*Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, 97 Lemon St.; (716) 856-0363.