Volunteer offers free financial counseling at JFS

Jim Goldman volunteers as a money coach/Tracy Simmons - CreedibleWEST HARTFORD – Financial counseling isn’t cheap. According to consumercredit.com, most agencies charge for educational materials, enrollment and maintenance.

But not Money Coach Jim Goldman.

For the past two years he’s been providing free finance counseling through Jewish Family Services in West Hartford. Every Wednesday he works with clients one-on-one for an hour at a time to help people get their cash flow back on track.

A certified financial counselor, with more than 20 years of experience under his belt, Goldman says he donates his time because he wants to give back to the community.

His drive to help people, he says, came to him 16 years ago after a near-death experience.

He and his family were sleeping one summer night when Goldman heard a noise outside. The tree outside his home was on fire. He rushed his wife and 6-month old son into the backyard and called for help. As he waved his arms, trying to get the fire truck’s attention, he stepped barefooted on a live electrical wire. He shouldn’t have lived, the emergency workers said, but Goldman somehow survived.

The incident, he said, reminded him that there was a reason he was still breathing.

“I was lucky to be alive and I really wanted that to make a change in my life,” he said. “And it did for a couple of weeks. But after a couple of weeks, I was back to sweating the small stuff.”

Then two summers ago, while driving home from work, a bicyclist ran into his car. Being a white male in a minority neighborhood, Goldman said the accident could have easily been misconceived. But witnesses told the truth, reminding him of the promise he made once before to help others.

But, he said, the inspiration died off once again.

It wasn’t until he stopped to eat alone at IHOP one evening that his life really changed. Goldman overheard a family talking about their financial struggles and quietly paid for their meal.

“Why do I do this?,” he said about his free money coaching services. “I do it to recapture that feeling I got in the IHOP parking lot. That feeling lasted.”

He offered his services to JFS and has been helping clients with their money problems ever since.

Goldman says he doesn’t coach people on budgeting, but instead focuses on controlling debt. Most of his clients, he said, struggle with credit card debt. He works with them to design a payment plan that works with their budget.

“It is very unusual for anyone to be able to have access to an hour appointment with a financial counselor with this level of experience, so we’re very grateful that he’s willing to do this for our clients,” said Michelle Souza, JFS director of marketing and development. “It’s important for individuals who are so stressed financially right now, especially those who have lost their jobs. It’s been a great service for everyone that’s gone through the process with him.”

Anyone, regardless of their faith, can make an appointment with Goldman by calling (860) 236-1927. Over the phone appointments are also available.

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