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Money Smart Success Stories - Spring 2011

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Success Stories: Making a World of a Difference by Teaching Money Smart in Other Languages

You probably know that the FDIC makes the Money Smart curriculum available in multiple languages to help educators reach individuals who are best able to communicate -- and learn -- in a language other than English. (The instructor-led version of Money Smart is available in English, Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese, and it will soon also be available in French Creole and Hindi.) The availability and use of the non-English versions is particularly important given that the FDIC’s National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households found that households in which Spanish is the only language spoken at home are significantly more likely to be unbanked (35.6 percent versus 7.7 percent average).

Because many financial educators are looking for ways to reach out to the growing number of people in America who primarily speak a language other than English, this edition of our Money Smart News "Success Stories" highlights some ways that our curriculum is being put to good use to help those who learn best in another language.

In Los Angeles, Daniela Galvan of New Economics for Women, provides monthly Spanish-language financial education workshops using the Money Smart curriculum at two of the city-run Family Source Centers for low-income residents. The workshops last a full day and combine elements from all of the Money Smart modules. Ms. Galvan reports that approximately 150 Spanish-speaking people have completed a Money Smart workshop.

Especially important, she said, are the "Money Matters" module of the Spanish-language Money Smart Guide (to discuss preparing a budget and to pay particular attention to the costs of smaller necessities, such as laundry) and the "Pay Yourself First" section (to discuss the significance of getting into the habit of saving). Someparticipants have opened a bank account – primarily checking accounts because of lower minimum balance requirements -- and they use this account as a stepping stone to opening a savings account in the near future.

To help reinforce the ideas learned in the Money Smart workshops, Ms. Galvan encourages participants to take an index card and write down a personal financial goal for themselves. After writing their goal, they are instructed to store the index card in their purse or wallet, near their spending money. "That way, when they find themselves in a situation where they might spend money spontaneously, they will spot their index card 'reminder' and think twice before compromising a long-term financial goal," said Ms. Galvan.

Another organization that delivers Money Smart in Spanish is First National Bank Texas/First Convenience Bank, based in Killeen, Texas, with more than 220 branches across the state. When potential customers show interest in opening an account with a Matrícula Card (an identification card issued by the Mexican government) rather than a traditional drivers license, the bank lets the new customers know about its workshop offering the Money Smart “Bank on It” module in Spanish. The training is offered regularly to the customers, although it is not a requirement to open the account. The workshop is taught in Spanish by bank employees, and classes are also offered quarterly at the Urban League of Greater Dallas and the Texas Workforce Commission.

"The impact that we see for the Hispanic population is once they get the Matrícula card and open the account, they are more secure about their money and, most importantly, they feel as if they are a part of society," said Wanda Padilla, Bilingual Banking Specialist for First National Bank Texas/First Convenience Bank. "At first, most of the customers are afraid because they do not know what to do, but once they are educated about the U.S. banking system, they get excited. That's priceless!"

She added that Spanish-speaking customers "educate us as well" because "in order to service their needs, we, in turn, must be aware of what it is we can do for them; it's a relationship that goes both ways."

Also, Boat People SOS, a national Vietnamese-American organization based in Falls Church, Virginia, teaches the FDIC's Vietnamese language Money Smart curriculum, and it translates it for classes in Khmer and Lao. The organization has offices across the country serving rural and isolated communities. At its location in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, Boat People SOS offers financial education programs through a matched savings program to help low-income immigrants build assets in Individual Development Accounts (IDAs).One family saved enough funds in an IDA to move out of a dilapidated rental house and purchase their own home, where one daughter's health improved and the children had a safe place to play outdoors. “This is an excellent example of how a Money Smart program can empower low-income families to bring about positive, long-term benefits for both themselves and their community," said Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC’s Outreach and Program Development Section.

How else can financial educators help introduce the underserved to the U.S. banking system? Here are a few tips from FDIC staff:

Encourage young adults from bilingual families to take Money Smart material home for their parents. "Educators who teach Money Smart for Young Adults in English have the opportunity to reach out to adults who can greatly benefit from our non-English materials but may not otherwise attend a Money Smart class themselves," said Reynolds. "These materials can be crucial resources, even for organizations that don't have the capacity to teach workshops in a foreign language."

Make sure that workshops are taught by professionals who are fluent in the language. "A teacher who speaks their language and understands their culture and community will make the participants more at ease and receptive to the information being provided," added Irma Matias, an FDIC Community Affairs Specialist.

English-language workbooks and other materials can be made available for students who are learning to speak English. For example, Matias noted that each module of the Money Smart curriculum includes a Participant's Guide that, in English, "can help introduce students to American banking terminology that can be useful when they establish a banking relationship."

Contact foreign-language newspapers in your community about an article or op-ed piece using Money Smart on topics such as savings and credit. Many consumers are interested in learning more about ways to avoid unnecessary fees on bank accounts (such as overdrafts) and how to manage credit and credit cards. Money Smart is a resource you can use for this purpose. "Articles on these and other financial topics will not only educate consumers, but they may spark interest in the financial education classes your organization is offering," said Matias.

Financial educators who work with young people can introduce them to the online and podcast versions of Money Smart. Both are available in Spanish, and teens and young adults may prefer to learn independently and at their own pace using electronic versions of the FDIC curriculum.

See more Money Smart success stories (Read more.)

For help or information on how to use the Money Smart financial education curriculum, contact

Wanted: Your Money Smart Success Stories
Please consider sharing your achievements using the Money Smart curriculum and the valuable lessons that other educators can benefit from. We are especially interested in reports on the following: creative ways that Money Smart is being used to help elderly consumers; how social service professionals and other educators are using Money Smart to empower survivors of domestic violence; and approaches for integrating Money Smart into youth mentoring programs. Please send us a few sentences. If your story is selected, we will contact you for more details. Please send your submission to

Last Updated 4/20/2011

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