Resources in Sonoma County to Get Your Finances on Track


There are a number of ways that people who want to learn how to budget, save, and manage their money can get this help in Sonoma County.

Financial advisers and financial coaches offer a wide variety of support, courses and advice to their clients. Some banks and credit unions offer a range of similar services to their customers.

These programs are often available in Spanish. Prices range from zero for some utility programs to hundreds of dollars for private counseling. You just have to ask. These people don’t hesitate to talk about money.

In recent years, much of the financial and budget education has migrated online, making these programs convenient during the pandemic. They are easy to access and compare, but sometimes impersonal. Here are some examples recommended by local advisers and bankers. The fees vary; some are free.

Balance ( This non-profit organization advises in all areas of finance, seeking to help clients develop balanced budgets so that they can “achieve their financial dreams”. Founded in 1969 as the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco in Sonoma County, he works through Redwood Credit Union and also advises online and over the phone. Counselors are licensed by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to advise clients on housing matters.

National Foundation for Credit Counseling ( Founded in 1951, the foundation claims to be the largest and oldest nonprofit financial advisory organization in the United States. Darlene Goins, head of financial health philanthropy at Wells Fargo Bank, recommends the foundation as a safe and confidential place to get personalized, one-on-one help managing debt and developing a financial plan.

Banzai ( This program wants to “make learning about money, budgeting, credit scores and loans easy and accessible to everyone in our local communities”. It offers three online courses: Banzai Junior for children ages 8 to 12, Banzai Teen for teens ages 13 to 18 and over and Banzai Plus, where adults learn smart money management, how to maintain a good credit, how to qualify for a loan or mortgage and how to invest. Sponsored locally by Community First Credit Union, the programs are “interactive, informative and fun,” their website says with an implicit smile.

Convenient banking services ( This website says it’s “easy to navigate, interactive and entertaining” and “a simple and engaging way to learn the basics of finance and smart money management.” He teaches how to buy a home, manage debt, start a small business, pay for education, save and invest for the future. “It’s a wonderful tool,” said Goins of Wells Fargo, who sponsors the site. “We have seen a lot of additional uses, including by teachers.”

Abacus Pro Bono ( The Sébastopol firm offers private 45-minute telephone consultations free of charge with an Approved Financial Planner once a month, within the limit of one per household. “At Abacus, we believe everyone deserves quality financial advice and peace of mind about their money,” said Eileen Freiburger, Certified Financial Planner at Abacus Wealth Partners in Sevastopol.

Some charities also give their clients the opportunity to learn more about money management. The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County Community Action Partnership are two examples.

The Financial Stability Services program offered by Catholic Charities ( is “designed to be a maintenance tool for clients to achieve financial freedom” with a long-term goal of “helping families and second generations live debt free”. It includes credit counseling, help obtaining a taxpayer identification number, and tax assistance. Counselors are approved by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to advise clients on housing issues.

“What Catholic Charities is doing is meaningful and can change the world. My life has been transformed. My family is deeply grateful for the information we have received and the benefits we have gained from all of the financial courses and services provided to us, ”said client Adela Gomez.

Sonoma County Community Action Partnership (, a 53-year-old nonprofit in Santa Rosa that serves around 11,000 people, mostly low-income people each year, includes financial counseling in its HCA Family Fund as part of a “whole family approach.” , said Deputy Director Kathy Kane.

The staff were trained four years ago as part of the Federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s Your Money Your Goals program. Their clients learn about topics such as banking, bad lending, goal setting and budgeting.

“They come out of it more financially educated and aware of how to improve their financial situation,” Kane said.

After the recent succession of financial crises starting with firestorms in 2017, the agency is extending this training to other programs.

“It was very evident with that first fire that so many people had no kind of safety net and no ability to save,” Kane said. “We have several written grants to focus on this. “

Mary Fricker is a retired Democratic business press reporter. You can reach her at [email protected]

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