I’m Ready Now: One Woman’s Journey Home

Money is a man’s world. In the United States, women make $.76 to a man’s $1.00, and 59% of women are in the labor force, compared to 69% of men. Women are underrepresented in executive, managerial, and political positions, and more likely to work in service and care-giving sectors, which demand more emotional labor but offer lower pay and fewer benefits.

Fathers, brothers, and husbands are often responsible for managing a household’s money, and yet 80-90% of women will at some point in their lives be responsible for their finances, often due to divorce or being widowed. Less than two in ten women feel “very prepared” to make financial decisions; 27% of women say they were raised not to talk about finances, and 56% of women say that discussing finances, even with people close to them, is “too personal.” Women live longer than men by an average of 5 years, and yet women are considerably less likely to feel prepared for retirement. In fact, despite the fact that their retirements will be longer, women tend to set lower savings goals for their retirement than men do.

As she prepares to own her very own home at the end of February, Darnetta Cooper has a lot on her plate. Single mother and life-long Chicagoan, Darnetta works full-time at a hospital on the West side, raises her 17-year-old granddaughter, and helps her mother take care of her 98-year-old grandmother. For these  four generations of women, owning a home is no small thing.

 “I never thought I could,” Darnetta remembers. She had always thought that you would need “a whole bunch of money” to buy a home, and for a working single mother a whole bunch was just too much. So Darnetta raised her kids and her granddaughter in rented apartments, working and living through every move. “Why am I not feeling comfortable in these places?” she asked herself, and realized that something needed to change. “One day I thought ‘I think I’m ready to get a house now.’”

As a client of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Choose to Own Program, which gives Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders the option to apply their vouchers to a mortgage, Darnetta was referred to Spanish Coalition for Housing (SCH) to work with pre-purchase housing counselor Madeline Morales.

“We need to be educated first, before going into these things,” Darnetta says, recalling how Madeline’s Homebuyer Education workshop inspired her, and motivated her to do everything she could. In one-on-one counseling, Madeline taught Darnetta the importance of being debt-free; she was astonished when Darnetta paid off all of her debts in only 5 months.

“My mother always said ‘You close your eyes and just do it.’ It feels so good to pay all your debts out,” Darnetta says, “[and] it feels good to have good credit. You’ll feel confident. You’ll feel good.”  With the financial advice she received at SCH, Darnetta was able to harness the power of her inspiration and make homeownership a reality for herself and her granddaughter. Now, she can truly enjoy the fun part: making the house a home. “I can see myself sitting [in the kitchen] with the sun shining in the window drinking a cup of tea,” Darnetta says, and with the day fast approaching she and her granddaughter are already picking out paint colors.

“I hope other women know they can do this,” she says, and wants other women to know that the debts and credit struggles they face are not insurmountable. “Women can do it, I’m an example,” she says. “I’m a single woman, I don’t have a husband. If you want it, you’ll do it.”

Interested to know how Darnetta and her granddaughter are settling in? We’ll keep you posted in future newsletters! In the meantime, take a look at our upcoming workshops to see when you can start your journey toward financial stability or your own home:

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