Kern County is rich in small businesses, and as a result many families depend on these businesses operating to make ends meet. A recent study from the group, SmartAsset found that Bakersfield is the 13th most financially-stressed city in the U.S.
“Unfortunately it’s not surprising, because not a day goes by where you don’t use something or experience something or touch something that doesn’t have to do with money," Denise Winston, Founder and CEO of Money Starts Here said.
Winston founded Money Starts here in Bakersfield 11 years ago after growing up in Kern County and working as a banker for 25 years. She’s seen firsthand how the Golden Empire’s prime assets, like oil and agriculture, could also lead to its downfall.
“There’s a volatility there and there always has been. In some of those environments and some of those jobs, you can actually make a lot of money, but when there’s cuts you don’t have money,” Winston said.
And when money is cut, so is the pay of many of employees working in our county in those industries. The state notes that Kern County currently has a 16.5 percent unemployment rate.
The MLK Community Initiative in partnership with Bank of America has been hosting an eight-week course on how to manage financial stress. ShePOWER global ambassador, Arleana Waller said that it’s important to closely monitor the money you are making and spending.
“Most Americans don’t even have 500 dollars in their savings, so if an emergency was to come up, they can’t really save themselves, especially during COVID-19 we really see that," Waller said. "So for an example, if you drive long distance, save for a tire. That may be $20 every paycheck.”
Waller said that during uncertain times, it’s especially important to plan for unforeseen emergencies.
"Putting a little bit aside, whether that’s in a savings account, or in an envelope, and really the ultimate goal is to have a minimum of three months of living saved aside in case of an emergency," Waller said. If you have a family of three or four, you want to have at least six months of savings. I know that sounds hard, but if you do a little bit at a time it’s possible."
If you are interested in the financial stress course, you can check our community calendar for more information. The course is three weeks in, but Waller said you can jump right in!