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Will Smith Invests in App that Helps Teens with Financial Literacy

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Will Smith recently became an investor in Step, a mobile-based banking service app for teenagers, through his Dreamers fund. Step allows teens to easily send and receive money from their family and friends, get real-time notifications, and they don’t have to deal with the monthly or overdraft fees and no minimum balance that traditional banking customers incur.

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By Sequoia Blodgett

Will Smith recently became an investor in Step, a mobile-based banking service app for teenagers, through his Dreamers fund. Step allows teens to easily send and receive money from their family and friends, get real-time notifications, and they don’t have to deal with the monthly or overdraft fees and no minimum balance that traditional banking customers incur.

The platform’s lead investor is Stripe. Other investors include Nas, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Wndrco, Ronnie Lott, Matt Rutler, Kevin Gould, and Moat founders Noah and Jonah Goodhart. Those investments translate into $22.5 million in funding.

This isn’t the company’s first round raised, however. Prior to this, the company closed a previous round with Crosslink Capital, Collaborative Fund, and Sesame Ventures.

“Schools don’t teach kids about money,” CJ MacDonald, the CEO, and co-founder said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We want to be their first bank accounts with spending cards, but we also want to teach financial literacy and responsibility. Banks don’t tailor to this, and we want to be a solution for teaching the next generation of adults to be more responsible with money in the cashless era. It was easy with cash to go to the mall but now everyone is using their phone for Uber and more.”

The funding will be used to bring Step’s first product to market, banking accounts with payment cards attached. This will be done in partnership with Mastercard and Evolve.

Step currently has a waitlist of over 500,000 potential users waiting for access to the product.

Step isn’t the first company attempting to tackle this problem. Other startups include Current and Greenlight. What makes Step different? The offerings. Step directly addresses teens by giving them ownership over their finances. The parents still have access but, Step puts the teen in control. Those under 18 can sign up for accounts without parental or guardian consent gaining access to an account with extremely limited functionality. The overarching goal for Step is to financially empower the youth.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Advice

Buying a Home May Not Be as Out of Reach as You Think, Even in This Market

While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low levels of housing inventory and supply chain constraints have created an affordability squeeze for homebuyers. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months — from 3% in 2021 to close to 6% in 2022 — making it increasingly challenging for many Americans to purchase a home, especially for those with limited income.

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While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors
While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Here’s How You Can Achieve Homeownership

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you will make in your lifetime. Pressure is mounting for those looking to buy right now, with home prices fluctuating and mortgage rates at their highest levels in over a decade.

While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low levels of housing inventory and supply chain constraints have created an affordability squeeze for homebuyers. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months — from 3% in 2021 to close to 6% in 2022 — making it increasingly challenging for many Americans to purchase a home, especially for those with limited income.

So, how do you know when you’re ready to buy a home? More importantly, how much home can you afford? We sat down with Denise Richardson, community home lending advisor at Chase, to answer those questions and discuss what the current state of the market means for you and your family’s home buying dreams.

Q: What are the main factors mortgage lenders look at when evaluating an application?

Richardson:

When it comes to homeownership, your credit score and debt-to-income ratio are major factors in the application process.

Your credit score is set based upon how you’ve used — or not used — credit in the past. Using credit responsibly, such as paying bills on time and having a low utilization rate will result in a higher score. Higher credit scores can help you qualify for the lowest interest rates. A score at 700 or above is generally considered good.

Additionally, lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio. This is a simple equation of how much debt you have relative to how much money you make. Borrowers with a higher debt-to-income ratio are considered more risky while a lower debt-to-income ratio may allow you to qualify for the best rates on your home loan.

Q: What are some tips for improving your credit score?

Richardson: There are a number of things you can do to improve your credit score, starting with reviewing your credit reports to understand what might be working against you. You can also pay down your revolving credit and dispute any inaccuracies.

Additionally, there are services like Chase Credit Journey to help monitor and improve your credit score. Credit Journey monitors all your accounts and alerts you to changes in your credit report that may impact your score. You’ll get an alert any time Chase sees new activity, including charges, account openings and credit inquiries. Chase will also notify you if there are changes in your credit usage, credit limits or balances. You don’t have to be a Chase customer to take advantage of Credit Journey.

Q: What are some factors that can affect the cost of a mortgage?

Richardson: There are several factors to consider when reviewing mortgage options including loan term, interest rate and loan type. Potential homebuyers should contact a home lending professional to understand and review the options available to them.

For example, there are two basic types of mortgage interest rates: fixed and adjustable. While adjustable rates are initially low, they can change over the course of a loan, so your mortgage payments may fluctuate. Loan term indicates how long you have to pay off the loan. Many homebuyers tend to opt for a 15-year or 30-year mortgage, though other terms are available. A longer loan term generally means you’ll have lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan. A shorter loan term may come with higher monthly payments, but you’ll likely pay much less in interest over time.

Q: What are the costs of homeownership beyond the monthly mortgage payment?

Richardson: People often think of the down payment and monthly mortgage — but buying and owning a home carries additional costs. Closing costs, for example, can amount to up to 3% or more of the final purchase price. Other factors that could add on to your monthly payments are property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and homeowner’s association (HOA) fees. To get an idea of what this may look like for you, use an affordability calculator.

While there is no way for a buyer to completely avoid paying these fees, there are ways to save on them. Some banks offer financial assistance for homebuyers. As an example, Chase’s Homebuyer Grant offers up to $5,000 that can be used toward a down payment or closing costs in eligible neighborhoods across the country. There may also be homeowners’ or down payment assistance offered in your city or state. Contact a home lending advisor to learn about resources you may be eligible for.

For a deeper dive into this topic, our Beginner to Buyer podcast — episode three, “How Much Can I Afford?” is a great resource for prospective homebuyers to get answers to all their homebuying questions.

Learn more about the homebuying process, here.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Activism

Tiny Homes Offer Hope for Holidays and Beyond

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes. 

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As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.
As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

By Dr. Maritony A. Yamot and Rev. Ken Lackey

The holidays are the season when we stop and begin to think, “How can I give back this year and what are some different ways to help out?”

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help out during the holidays that don’t cost a thing. The Tiny Homes Project — with Rev. Ken Lackey of the Center for the Perfect Marriage Church at 6101 International Blvd. — needs to increase its capacity and we wanted to remind our community that everybody matters to God.

As chief operations officer for The Tiny Homes Project, I join Lackey in expressing gratitude for the support that the Oakland Post, as our media partner, has helped us with in gathering community and faith-based leaders to help solve our increasing homeless problem in the Bay Area. We can no longer ignore homelessness in Oakland, which has now reached a humanitarian crisis.

We want to launch an intensive month-long generosity campaign to help the increasing homeless issues in our neighborhoods by adding to the number of tiny homes that we have already built at various private locations in Oakland.

We invite you to join us as we partner with some of Oakland’s fabulous nonprofit organizations to meet critical needs in our communities.

Whether through donation or action, there are plenty of opportunities to give.

We are accepting applications for volunteers and accepting donations that we can use to build Tiny Homes. You might have things in your house or garage you haven’t used or extra construction tools, a bag of stud nails, used doors, windows, roofing materials, lumber, metal, hardwood flooring, sheetrock tape, paints, and anything that we can recycle to build and add to our Tiny Homes.

We are also looking for vehicle donations of trailers or any truck for hauling material and picking up volunteers and homeless people that are helping to build Tiny Homes. We build our homes with primarily donated and surplus materials, allowing us to cut costs and provide a pleasant home for under $40,000.

Each and every person who wants to help out and eradicate the homeless problem in the City of Oakland can donate funds for us to build a Tiny Home. If donors want to give money to the ministry, we will build a tiny home and name it after them. Know that your donations will be able to take a whole family off the street during this cold season.

In addition, we are open to getting a sponsor or sponsors for an entire Tiny Homes Community Park and we have a separate location that will be designated for homeless veterans, the elderly, single mothers or single fathers, and any individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, such as those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, places not meant for habitation, or sleeping on our streets.

Please spread the word and contact us about any way you can help our Tiny Homes Community Project with Rev. Ken Lackey.

There are three ways to contact us

  1. By Phone/toll-free number: 1-833-233-8900 ext. 1
  2. By Email: TinyHomesC@gmail.com
  3. By Appointment/Donation Drop off location at the All About Grits Restaurant at 6101 International Blvd., Oakland, CA

Or you can attend our next two major events:

  1. Tiny Homes Fundraising Event on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. Place to be announced.
  2. Tiny Homes Community Building Workshop with the help of our community and local partners in the Bay Area. Date and place to be announced.

Contact us for more details of these two events or any ways you can help in this season.

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Activism

Faith Baptist Church Becomes Oakland’s First Official Resiliency Hub

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project. With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

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As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.
As members of the community that comprise Faith Baptist Church look on, California Interfaith Power and Light Executive Director Susan Stephenson, left (in white jacket), hands scissors to the eldest member of Faith Baptist for the ribbon cutting on Nov. 14 while Pastor Curtis Robinson stands just behind him. Also pictured are District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb (white hair, white shirt) and to his right (multi-colored top) is Shayna Hirschfield-Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager. Photo courtesy of Faith Baptist Church and California Interfaith Power and Light.

By Curtis O. Robinson, Sr., M.A., Harvard University fellow, ’19, Senior Pastor, Faith Baptist Church

So, when I say that Faith Baptist is Oakland’s first Resiliency Hub, the first question that many people ask is, “what is a resiliency hub?”

In an article from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “Resilience hubs: A new approach to crisis response,” the author writes, “Things that shock a community have to do with climate, but more urgently they have to do with systemic inequities.”

He was referring to police shootings, civic unrest, the growth of homeless encampments and more. The resiliency hub approach to these inequities uses a respected local organization, such as a church or community center, and bolsters it to help neighborhoods prepare for crises — hurricanes, heat waves, pandemics or unrest — and to respond and recover from them.

When Faith was approached with the idea of solar panels for its rooftop as a source of heat, the decision was relatively a no-brainer.

As a House of Worship, there is a collective emphasis on the workings of God in the universe. The first job that God gave humanity was to tend the Garden. When it comes to environmental justice, our goal then is to take care of this place called planet Earth.

The world is now in an environmental tailspin. However, with technology that teaches us how to create sustainable outcomes, sprinkled with common sense, we can achieve an environmental balance that can create safe spaces environmentally for our children and for our future.

Faith Baptist Church was the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Legacy Award. Faith was chosen out of a pool of dozens of applicants for the award. The key differentiator was the Solar Battery Storage project.

With that, Faith Baptist has the ability to totally exit the PG&E grid and generate 100% energy from its solar panels. That makes Faith Baptist a potential energy distributor.

With the help of California Interfaith Power and Light and energy experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, we held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 14.

Joining us, among others, were Susan Stephenson, executive director of California Interfaith Power and Light, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb of District 1, Shayna Hirschfield- Gold, Oakland’s Climate Program manager and members of Faith Baptist and the Pentecostal community that shares our space and Green Building volunteers.

We bask in the glory of energy independence, because we now tap into clean energy from above and not dirty energy from below.

Publisher’s note: Rev Curtis Robinson also is a columnist for the God on Wall Street column for the Post News Group.

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