On Saturday, there was a unique event to address a number of financial concerns. The turnout certainly exceeded expectations, which many see as a sign of the need. Last year was the first year for the financial planning seminar and only a handful of people showed up, about 15 people. Saturday, there was a crowd of some 250, eager to take in the workshops and one-on-one counseling.
Oakland City Hall became a snapshot of an economy in crisis. There was a standing room crowd eager for help.
"We needed to have a session today where experts come together with citizens and talk in plain English about how we maneuver the stormy financial waters," said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson.
Some 40 professionals volunteered to spend the day answering questions and offering free advice. Betty Haynes lost her home of 42 years when the mortgage payments shot up to $3,500 a month.
"They served me papers to move out and I'm not going to move out until I get some sense of what's happening here," she told ABC7.
Tomas Hernandez is not out of work, but his full-time job has been cut to 15 hours a week.
"I'm not working the same hours like last year. So, it's going to be a hard time from now on," he said.
Members of the Financial Planners Association were not allowed to pass out business cards or push products. It was all about helping people with everything from avoiding foreclosure to retirement planning and money management. State Controller John Chiang says it is critical that people ask for help and get help because California's economic recovery depends on individuals and families getting back on their feet.
"If they're not spending, then that means we have reduced sales taxes, and if they're not spending at those stores that means that corporations aren't paying as much taxes. So, jobs are important. Confidence is important," Chiang said Saturday.
Chiang believes the state is experiencing a bumpy bottom and that a steady recovery is still months away. On Saturday though, Betty, Tomas and others found that help was there for the taking.
"It can be really discouraging, but I think this is an opportunity to empower ourselves by just doing little changes," said workshop participant Jeri Canini.
Saturday's event was primarily designed to target underserved communities who generally do not have access to professional financial advice, but the workshops and the counseling were open to everyone.