Sometimes it takes a grand gesture to get people’s attention about their bad money habits, like symbolically chopping through a stack of credit cards with a machete.
“El Machete” came to town Sunday to do just that at the kickoff to a monthlong series of events hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Wearing a business suit, armed with a message that he delivered in both English and Spanish: Start socking your money away, today.
“Until savings become a priority you will always be broke,” warned financial planner Andres Gutierrez, aka El Machete, the featured speaker at the Financial FunFest at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Sunday afternoon.
Banks and local service agencies were there, handing out brochures, free pens, water bottles and mini soccer balls. The piggy banks were the most popular. While a couple of Sporting KC players posed with the kids, adults listened to Gutierrez offer solutions to America’s “nightmare” of debilitating consumer debt.
The event kicked off Money Smart Month in the metro area, a series of more than 200 seminars, workshops and other events hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank.
“We all have to deal with money, and some of us learn the hard way,” said Gigi Wolf, economic education specialist with the Federal Reserve Bank. “Hopefully some of us are learning different tools and techniques as we go along because it’s something we have to deal with day to day. So it just makes sense.”
More than 12,000 people participated in Money Smart events in Kansas City last year. Wolf said that about two-thirds of the attendees at last year’s kickoff event at Sporting Park were Hispanic, a group the Federal Reserve Bank is eager to reach, so it brought Gutierrez back for a second year.
Gutierrez ran his own financial planning business in San Antonio for 11 years before the popular financial makeover guru Dave Ramsey hired him to work specifically with the Hispanic market. Gutierrez also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program about money, which airs locally from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday on KCZZ 1480 AM.
This is what he knows about his fellow Hispanics: Too many of them are broke.
Isaac Uzcanga, who works as an economic improvement coordinator for El Centro Inc. in Kansas City, Kan., said many new immigrants fall into the trap of easy credit. It happened to him, he said. And many new immigrants don’t trust banks.
Claudia Giner, a Spanish interpreter from Kansas City, Kan., said that she and her family went to Sunday’s money fair because they live from paycheck to paycheck.
They have a lot of company in that boat. Part of that American nightmare that Gutierrez described? Nearly 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Money Smart Month
Money Smart Day will be 10 a.m to 2:30 p.m April 19, at the Kansas City Public Library, 14 W. 10th St., with a dozen financial educational sessions, youth activities and credit reports. To register, or for a complete schedule of events, go to MoneySmartKC.org. Printed calendars are available at any Kansas City Public Library.