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Connex Financial Fitness Competiton Improves Financial Futures
Posted on September 12th, 2016

Please scroll below to see contestants pictures
​Contestants from Connex Credit Union’s ConneXfactor
Financial Fitness Competition Improve their Financial Futures

Participants have reduced debt, refinanced mortgages and tackled financial hardships
NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (Sept. 9, 2016) – As part of its commitment to customer advocacy, and its philanthropic ConnexCares program, Connex Credit Union has developed the ConneXfactor competition to give its members the resources necessary to take control of their financial lives.
ConneXfactor, which began its third year in April, is a financial fitness competition where five individuals compete to see who can improve their fiscal situation the most. Each participant is paired with a Connex financial advocate who acts as a coach, providing them with tips and guidance throughout the duration of the contest. This program has progressed steadily throughout the summer. Recently, each contestant spoke briefly on their successes to-date.

Natalya Carmona-Bryant, a 29-year-old married mother of three, has learned first-hand that life is unpredictable. Her coach, Financial Advocate Mike Nowicky, helped her develop a financial plan to prepare for unexpected hardships; however, she quickly learned that the ability to make adjustments to this strategy is equally crucial.
Carmona-Bryant’s ConneXfactor experience was challenged when she experienced extreme financial difficulties, but Nowicky urged her to continue working towards her ultimate objective. Adhering to the financial tips she has received throughout the competition has allowed her to slowly, but steadily, navigate through these adversities. Carmona-Bryant shared high praise for her coach labeling him as “encouraging” and “helpful.” Additionally, Carmona-Bryant has now been able to put extra focus on maintaining her credit score. 
“I’ve learned that plan and goal timeframes may need to change,” said Carmona-Bryant. “But, it is important to keep the same mindset towards achieving them.”

Ruth Carruth, a 44-year-old divorcee, came into the contest with a situation that is unfortunately quite common and stressful. Working full-time at Yale University, and supplementing her income with a part-time job at Target, Carruth was struggling to pay off her credit card debt. With her current obligations, her goal to become a homeowner seemed like an impossible task.
The creation of an intricate budget plan by Coach and Financial Advocate Lamar Weaver was the catalyst necessary to set Carruth on the path towards her objective. She originally believed that budgeting would require a monotonous lifestyle devoid of any pleasurable activities. However, throughout the competition Carruth was introduced to a variety of alternative options for leisurely activities that allowed her to maintain an enjoyable life while adhering to her budget.
“Creating a budget plan was ultimately the change I needed to spark my progression towards accomplishing my goals,” said Ruth Carruth. “Lamar helped me put things into perspective and realize what my priorities should be, as opposed to what they were.”
Jennifer Johnson: a 23, single, and working full-time as an administrative assistant. Additionally, she works part-time as a bartender for special events at Yale University. One of the first things she accomplished during ConneXfactor was the creation of a budget summary highlighting her goals and dictating how each paycheck must be allocated to cover those expenses. This process has afforded her an appropriate timeline of when she will reach her targets, which has played a key role in keeping her engaged. She is currently making balanced progression towards paying off her credit card debt.
Working with Financial Advocate and Coach Michael Federico, Johnson has developed a system that has allowed her to keep her bills under control. With a proper and consistent procedure, she no longer has to dip into her savings to alleviate monthly costs. Johnson is now able to steadily build funds while reducing her debt.
“A major change that helped me progress towards my goals is learning how to budget and distribute the money I make bi-weekly,” said Jennifer Johnson. “It is not a lot of money, and my bills are nearly equal to the amount I make, however, with Michael’s help I have learned how to set up a proper routine to pay my bills.”

Christine Cohen is a 40-year-old mother of three who is also a business owner with her husband. Like many others, Christine often procrastinated when contributing to retirement accounts, life insurance funds and college savings for her children. When thinking about her future, she often felt overwhelmed and frightened. Coach and Financial Advocate Kerry Perrotta was able to assist Cohen in developing a strategy to ensure that her, and her children’s, financial situations would be stable in the future.
Cohen was previously hesitant about contributing to the college, retirement and life insurance funds because she did not believe she had an adequate amount of dollars to do so. Perrotta discovered a way for Cohen to refinance the mortgage, lowering her monthly payment significantly. This extra income has helped her make great progress towards the funds she had previously neglected.
“With the help of Kerry, I’ve been able to find creative ways to secure not only my children’s education, but ensure that my retirement and insurance accounts are properly funded,” said Christine Cohen. “The sense of freedom and security this has given me is priceless.”

Marilisa is 26, single, and currently working as a police officer. When she is off-duty, she is in school studying to obtain a master’s degree. She came into the ConneXfactor program struggling to manage her debt as she typically would pay her bills the same day she received her paycheck. This process left a minimal amount of money remaining for the rest of the week.
Financial Advocate, and winning coach from the 2015 ConneXfactor Competition, Michelle Panzo, has helped Anania learn the importance of budgeting. She has learned to withhold a small amount of money from each paycheck to use on her bills. This process has allowed her to gain control of her finances and allocate money for other expenses and necessities including a savings account.
Like many 20-somethings, Anania had been engulfed in student loan and car loan debt which were accompanied by two credit cards that were both nearly at their debt limit. With incredibly high payments, and seemingly endless compounding interest, Anania felt she would never be able to save money. Through proper budgeting, refinancing and consolidation, Coach Panzo has helped her make great strides towards reducing her debt.
“Michelle has helped me since day one,” said Marilisa Anania. “She has helped me refinance my car loan and consolidate my credit cards into one loan so I that I could use the extra money towards funding my savings or making higher payments on my loans to pay them off sooner.”
“This season of ConneXfactor has already produced profound, tangible results and our financial advocates have done an extraordinary job of setting these contestants on a path to financial success,” said Carl J. Casper, vice president of Customer Advocacy, Connex Credit Union. “Connex Credit Union remains committed to improving the lives of our members, and with ConneXfactor we are able to help them rebuild their financial situation and make major strides toward developing a healthy financial future.”

ConneXfactor will conclude at the end of September, but anyone can participate by following along on the ConneXfactor website or by visiting a Connex Branch. Any member can replicate this experience by registering for a free, no-obligation session with one of Connex’s Financial Advocates.

For complete updates on the competition and financial tips, please visit the ConneXfactor website at
About ConnexCares:

ConnexCares is Connex Credit Union’s charitable and philanthropic program. The mission through ConnexCares is to promote financial literacy, well-being and understanding to our members and the greater communities Connex serves.
About Connex Credit Union:
As the Unbank, Connex Credit Union is one of Connecticut’s largest credit unions serving more than 45,000 members at 7 branches throughout greater New Haven. Headquartered in North Haven, Connecticut, Connex is a full-service member-owned credit union that offers members a full-range of financial services and products, including savings and loans, Unbank Checking, Smart Score credit score range, free online and mobile banking and more. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in New Haven, Hartford, Middlesex or Fairfield Counties. Connex Credit Union helps guide and improve members’ financial lives through the Connex Advocacy Promises: We will always work in your best interest; we will work with you to understand your goals, identify your financial needs and provide solutions to improve your life; and we will be responsive to you and make your experience simpler, faster and friendlier. It’s time to Unbank! For more information, please call 1-800-CR-UNION or visit

Ruth Carruth
Christine Cohen
Jennifer Johnson
Natalya Carmona-Bryant
Marilisa Anania

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