Participants pore over the information at a past Show Me the Money Day event.

Participants pore over the information at a past Show Me the Money Day event.

Photo provided by Brian Rakovitis

Budgeting on the ‘other side of the Great Recession’

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published February 6, 2019

METRO DETROIT — When they started out, it was all about advocating for low-income housing during the Great Recession.

But as the economy grew, so did the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, said Brian Rakovitis, the manager of financial empowerment initiatives at the Lansing-based CEDAM.

Now CEDAM is a statewide organization that promotes financial health and wealth building. It has moved into anti-poverty and asset-building initiatives, and financial empowerment programs, Rakovitis said.

Many people lost their homes during the recession, and his organization was all about getting positive financial behaviors developed in those tough times, he said.

Now that everyone is on the “other side of the Great Recession,” it is important to think about going beyond making ends meet.

“Poverty, in and of itself, is very cyclical in nature,” he said. “As tough times happen, you either go in poverty or stay in poverty.”

Rakovitis said financial empowerment includes moving up the income spectrum and ending “systemic poverty” so people have an opportunity to advance and have a better quality of life.

He said that financial empowerment is a lifelong endeavor, and small steps make big changes.

“Make sure you are budgeting, always setting something aside to always build assets,” he said, adding that it’s important to reach out to the community to find out more about financial smarts.

CEDAM’s Show Me the Money Day programs are being held across the state from now through March. There are 37 events,  11 of which are in the Detroit area.

Past Show Me the Money Day workshops have discussed the truth about payday loans, how to land a job and making the most of a tax return.

Upcoming CEDAM events will be held Feb. 12 in Jackson, Feb. 22 in Warren, Feb. 23 in Garden City and Feb. 26 in Pontiac. The free events include financial workshops, free tax preparation, resources, children’s activities, food and more. Registration is not required.

For more information on upcoming events, go to

Laltsha Cunningham, a financial education supervisor for the nonprofit, Southfield-based JVS Human Services, said that guessing is not good when it comes to finances.

“People kind of guess at the monthly bills based on what they usually are or were at one point” when budgeting, she said.

Don’t guess. Check print or online bills to see the exact amounts.

Failing to track money is a big mistake, Cunningham said. Free budget tracking apps can help.

“Once you track your spending, you get to see there is a spot where you put exactly what you bring in every month and then set up tracker expenses,” she said, noting that fast food and entertainment are top areas where spending can go awry.

“Those dollars add up,” she said. “Before you know it, you spend one night out with a friend that is $100 — if you do that every weekend, you spent $400” each month.

Cunningham said knowledge is power.

“The more you know about your own finances will give you the power to control how you spend and save your money,” she said.

JVS’ free resources include counseling on managing debt and money, understanding and improving credit scores, navigating student loans, and more.

For more information, go to or call (248) 233-4299.

Mike Bink, the founder and director of financial planning at the Walled Lake-based Equivest Financial Advisors LLC, said his company specializes in financial planning, college planning for college-bound families and investment planning. He will be speaking at 6 p.m. March 5 at the Farmington Community Library Main Branch on the topic of tax planning for retirement. He’ll return there in the fall to talk about tax code changes and retirement.

Bink said it’s important to assign a place for every dollar that comes in.

“If you’re making $5,000 a month, you want to assign a home where all $5,000 is going — whether that is savings, investments or spending,” he said.

“When people are bringing in more than what they are spending — which is a good thing — but that money is just sitting in a savings account … and not really doing anything, that is a lost opportunity,” he said.

For more information, go to