Faces of Success: Alan Bennett
For 20 years, Alan Bennett had been living two lives. Publicly, he was enjoying a highly successful music career that included touring, songwriting, producing, publishing and collaborating with industry professionals. Privately, he was suffering from the debilitating effects of financial stress and chaos. Student loans and credit card debt which began in college compounded to almost $45,000.
“At my lowest point, I spent some time living in my car,” said Bennett. “I knew something needed to change.”
Bennett slowly began chipping away at his debt. A referral and phone call to the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center helped him complete his journey of becoming debt free.
The Nashville Financial Empowerment Center is a partnership between the Office of Mayor Megan Barry and United Way of Metropolitan Nashville that provides free 1-on-1 financial counseling to help Davidson County residents reduce debt and increase savings. From 2013-2015, it has helped 3,700 clients like Bennett reduce their debt by $2.9 million and increase savings by $500,000.
“When I first called the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center, I was pretty emotional. I was still carrying around a considerable amount of debt.”
Bennett also had several years of unfiled tax returns. Because he couldn’t prove his income, Bennett lost his health insurance through the Marketplace. He was also paying high interest mortgage loans with no clear path to a refinance. His situation seemed hopeless.
“At my first meeting, the professional financial counseling specialist referred me to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Free Tax Prep program. They were able to help me file my taxes and get squared away.”
The VITA Free Tax Prep program provides free income tax preparation to individuals and families who qualify based on income. It was the ideal tool to help move Bennett closer to achieving his financial goals.
“I just couldn’t see the steps that I needed to take in order to improve my financial situation. The VITA volunteer who helped me was knowledgeable, patient and compassionate. Before I knew it, we had filed several years of taxes; I even got a refund on a couple years of returns.”
Over the past six years, IRS-certified volunteers have assisted more than 73,000 clients — including Bennett — with free tax preparation services through the VITA Free Tax Prep program. Individuals and families have received more than $137 million in refunds and tax preparation fee savings during this same time period. Bennett is overwhelmed with how these programs have improved his financial outlook over a short period of time.
“Working with the Financial Empowerment Center has been an important step in turning my entire financial situation around. Things are great now; I’m debt free and on track to refinance at a much lower rate. My credit score has also jumped over 100 points. I feel like I walked down a dark tunnel and came out on the other side. I am overwhelmed by United Way, the Mayor’s Office, and the services offered by the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center and the VITA Free Tax Prep program. I encourage others to take advantage of these free services.”
Bennett feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off of his shoulders, thanks to one phone call to the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center.
To learn more about the Nashville Financial Empowerment Center, please click here.