Working to become financially independent

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Kizzy Watson has changed her ways.
Instead of shopping and splurging, she now spends her money — and her time — trying to gain financial independence and move out of public housing.
“I’m learning to save and the value of a dollar,” said Watson, 32.
She saved $30 in one month on groceries by using coupons. She created a budget, and she sticks to it. Next month, she begins classes at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and plans to work in a medical office when she graduates.
For these changes in her life, Watson thanks one person — Stephanie Bruce.
“She’s an inspiration to me as a mentor and a woman,” Watson said. “She’s gone through what I’m going to go through.”
Watson has joined the Family Self-Sufficiency program at the Salisbury Housing Authority. Bruce completed the program in 2004 and now serves as coordinator.
Several years ago, Bruce began talking to Watson about the program, coaxing her to join.
“I listened to her respectfully, but I didn’t take her advice,” Watson said. “I wish I had. You’d probably be taking a picture of me in my own home.”
Then, Watson lost her job and decided to give it a try. She calls the program “wonderful” and encourages other public housing tenants to consider the benefits.
“Don’t be ashamed to ask for help,” Watson said. “Get yourself back on track.”
She has set nine goals, including earning a college degree, buying a home, obtaining full-time work and improving her credit score.
It takes about five years to complete the program. During a recent home visit in the tidy, small apartment Watson shares with her mother, Bruce asked for a progress report on several tasks assigned the week before. Each goal has a process and a time frame, and Bruce keeps her tenants on schedule.
“I love a good challenge, and Stephanie gives you each step,” Watson said.
With no car and no computer, Watson has several challenges to overcome. Bruce provides bus passes for transportation, and Watson can take money out of the her escrow account to buy a computer. The rest she plans to save for a down payment on a house.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” Watson said. “I have goals and dreams just like a millionaire does. I just have to take more steps to get there.”
After their meeting, Bruce and Watson laughed and shared a few stories.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Bruce said, encouraging Watson as she prepared to leave.
“And it’s just the beginning for me,” Watson said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.