osceola council on aging money matters presentationWhat a year (or two) it has been. Between our new normal of COVID-19 variants, the stock market up and down like a roller coaster, inflation, gasoline costs creating severe “pain at the pump” and enormous increases in the rental market, we have been required to adjust financially — but budgeting modifications are difficult as everything COSTS MORE.

Today’s financial challenges can be overwhelming for the average working family; for seniors living on a fixed income, the adjustments are not easy, and adapting can be nearly impossible. As a result, it seems everyone can use financial budgeting ideas, now, more than ever.

Amongst the many social services provided by the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA), inclusive of housing, nutrition, transportation, and medical clinic offerings, we also render educational opportunities and counseling on financial literacy and self-sufficiency budgeting programs.

“In these inflationary times, frugality is so important,” said Damaris Gutiérrez, Community Action Services Director. “We consistently work with families to help manage their financial responsibilities through our Building Strong Families program.”

Annually, we work with nearly 50 local families coordinating resources for selfsufficiency through the Building Strong Families program, providing case management to disadvantaged seniors and families with children at risk for homelessness.

Eligible participants for the program can receive emergency utility assistance, employment support services, rent and mortgage assistance, health services and nutrition assistance.

To become eligible, participants or families must be a resident of Osceola County, have a household adjusted gross income equal to or less than 125 percent of the poverty level, have a school-aged child, or children enrolled in an accredited public, private or parochial school in Osceola County, and be at risk for homelessness and/ or an unstable or transient home environment.

“The primary objective of this initiative is to improve the housing stability by providing guidance services to not only create financial sufficiency, but also relieve issues of truancy, for children and/or avoid completely dropping out of school,” Gutiérrez said.

In the meantime, what are tips we can all use on managing inflation without having a financial deficit each month? According to Beth Braverman and David Schiff from AARP, it is important to “go back to the basics.” Try shopping for less expensive products needed at home, consider perusing secondhand and/or thrift stores for finds and remember to always ask for senior discounts and freebies.

Sadly, a vital component of increased spending now is on groceries, as prices have increased 10 percent in the past year, a 40- year high according to the USDA. Similarly, another option in saving money is to focus on squeezing more out of your budgeted grocery dollars by utilizing coupons. According to techboomers.com, the top websites for grocery coupons can be found at RetailMeNot, Smart Source, Red Plum, Groupon, and Coupon. com. The bottom line is: find a formula so your spending is less than your income. Develop a budget, and stick to it!

On a positive note, for our seniors, the Social Security Administration stated seniors and others who rely on those benefits are likely to receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), “close to 8%” at the end of 2022 due to current inflation. That potential increase would represent the largest COLA adjustment since 1981.

For more information on our Building Strong Families programs, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/services/community-services/building-strong-families/, or call (407) 846-8532 ext. 1224.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/

Published Wednesday, August 3, 2022