FDIC Curriculum Inspires Student to Become a Homeowner…and an Educator
When Colleen Innis was a mother and a college student in Kansas City, Missouri, one subject she was especially interested in wasn’t offered by her university. So she turned to an FDIC Money Smart class taught by the Housing Authority of Kansas City on how to prepare for homeownership. Innis was impressed by the Money Smart instructor (“she made the class fun and interesting”) and her ability to catch up on sessions that conflicted with her college schedule by using the Money Smart Computer-Based Instruction program online (“a good alternative…it kept my attention”).
After completing the Money Smart training, she was able to qualify for and purchase a home. “This was an exciting time for my children and me,” Innis said. “Now I own a home that I am proud of and can afford, thanks to the financial education tools provided to me.”
And, after earning her bachelor’s degree, in 2005 Innis started a summer entrepreneurial program for youths ages 14 to 16 called Academy of Opportunity. “The Money Smart online courses were so awesome that I incorporated them into the curriculum as a part of the youth entrepreneurial training,” she said.
Greg Housel, who used to manage the Kansas City financial education program where Innis was a student and is now a Community Affairs Specialist at the FDIC, isn’t surprised by her Money Smart success story. “In my five years at the Housing Authority we had more than 1,600 families attend the Money Smart classes we taught,” Housel recalled. “We had 156 home sales to individuals who had completed our Money Smart classes. We found that our clients who attended Money Smart classes stayed in public housing only 18 months, but those who weren’t enrolled in Money Smart classes stayed 5.5 years. I saw how the Money Smart program helps change hundreds of lives.”
How Money Smart Is Being Used to Promote Access to Bank Deposit Accounts
The FDIC launched the Money Smart financial education curriculum more than 10 years ago as a tool that banks and other organizations can use to strengthen communities, especially by promoting the effective use of mainstream banking products and services by consumers without deposit accounts. Here are two recent examples of Money Smart educators producing positive results.
The Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) in Chicago, the lead agency in a community development coalition funded by the local United Way, started using the Money Smart instructor-led curriculums in Chinese and Vietnamese last year to teach non-English speaking students over a six-week period. According to Ben Rucker, the Program Director at the CMAA, “We are encouraged by the results, but the long-term success for us will really be measured by whether families maintain this banking relationship over the long-term by saving in an insured financial institution.”
To help students begin practicing the skills taught in the Money Smart curriculum, Rucker noted, students are provided with matching funds to open a checking account with the local Chicago area offices of Cathay Bank, The Foster Bank or Charter One, a division of RBS Citizens, National Association. To receive the full match, participants must save at least $5 a week in a checking account over a 12-week period.
Twenty-one Chinese and 12 Vietnamese students successfully completed the Money Smart class in 2011, and all opened bank accounts. Rucker added that the program is continuing during 2012.
While the CMAA took the initiative to organize the Money Smart classes and successfully collaborate with financial institutions to generate successes, Wintrust Financial Corporation is an example of a financial services firm taking the lead in identifying community partners and starting the dialogue. In October 2010, the Lake Forest, Illinois, holding company, which provides community banking services in the Chicago area and southern Wisconsin through 15 subsidiaries, launched a program to better connect with unbanked and underbanked consumers by offering the Money Smart curriculum. Wintrust’s program features:
Connecting each bank with nonprofit organizations, churches, schools, community groups and other partners to offer Money Smart classes;
Offering special checking and savings products to the students; and
Customizing flyers in English and Spanish.
Casandra Slade, a Senior Vice President at Wintrust Financial Corporation, said that special programs aimed at target markets “have added to the tremendous success of this financial education series.” In one example, bank staff worked with a local school district to offer concurrent Money Smart classes in English and Spanish (the latter had the largest attendance). Flyers were distributed to students inviting them and their parents to the twice-a-week classes. “Someone from the school would call the parents as a reminder, and this was a catalyst for the large turnouts,” Slade said.
Through the end of February 2012, more than 270 one-to-two hour sessions utilizing all modules of the Money Smart curriculum were offered because of the bank’s efforts. “The classes have been very well received, with many deposit accounts opened afterwards,” Slade commented. “There are always a lot of heads nodding in affirmation and understanding.” She added, “The Money Smart curriculum is here to stay at Wintrust and continues to be a key tool we use to stay plugged in to the community.”