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Money Smart News Success Stories - Winter/Spring 2016

Still Using Money Smart After All These Years: Returning to the Source of Our First Success Story

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As the FDIC celebrates the 15th anniversary of our Money Smart program, we decided to check in with the organization featured in our newsletter’s first Success Story in 2003 — the Chinese American Service League (CASL), a nonprofit agency based in Chicago. Since 1978, CASL has provided English language classes, job training, family counseling, child care, elder services, and housing and financial education to the local Chinese-American community.

CASL’s housing initiative has evolved to include a financial education department that now serves more than 17,000 clients. Immigrants from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan receive pre-purchase first-time homebuyer counseling and the opportunity to attend financial education classes to get a better understanding of how the financial system works. “They learn that financial education is the first step to building income in the United States,” said Ben Lau, manager of the organization’s Housing & Financial Education Department. 

CASL originally presented Money Smart for Adults over a seven-week period, but based on feedback from the attendees, it reduced the session to three weeks. Each class runs for two to three hours and usually averages 25 people.  Lau, also one of the instructors, said, “The FDIC Money Smart curriculum is very well-organized and detailed.  We have been using it in our financial literacy class since 2003 after helping with proof-reading of the Chinese version of the curriculum.” Attendees are given a copy of the Participant Guide, which they can refer back to after the completion of the class.

Over the 13 years that CASL has been teaching financial education classes, it has offered incentives to students, such as $50 to open a bank account. One recent student, XL Wu, opened an account as a result of the financial education classes: "The class was great!,” she said. “The knowledge that I obtained from the class is very helpful.  I decided to take the class again because I wanted to refresh what I learned from the first one that I attended not long after I immigrated to this country from China.  I opened a bank account after taking the first class.”

CASL also uses financial education to help its clients achieve homeownership by working with individuals to build their credit and create an action plan, as well as educating them on products they are eligible for, such as down-payment assistance.  “I consider the FDIC Money Smart curriculum as a very useful tool for my students to achieve financial stability,” said Rachel Chen, another CASL instructor.

After her second financial education class, Wu said, “I learned from the class that building credit history is very important for someone like me who wants to buy a house in this country.  The staff at CASL are very nice and they followed up with me every month to see if I put money in my account to save. I recommended the class and their services to my friends."

As Lau stated, “There are other financial literacy curriculums out there, but I can say that Money Smart is one of the best, if not the best.”

Ben Lau
Ben Lau, the manager of housing and financial education for the Chinese American Service League in Chicago, is shown teaching a class to members of the local community.

New York Women’s Organization Educating Adults and Young Adults with FDIC Tools

The New York Junior League (NYJL) is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities in New York City.  Its Financial Literacy Committee works to empower adults and young adults to make sound financial decisions by conducting Money Smart workshops. 

For instance, the committee’s volunteers recently taught approximately 75 high school students about budgeting (using Money Smart’s “Setting Financial Goals” module), credit (the “To Your Credit” module) and financial aid (the “Paying for College and Cars” module). The training  combined group activities with open discussions to allow participants to ask questions and share their thoughts.

During the budgeting session, students discussed earning money, daily expenses and how creating a budget can help them plan ahead and evaluate their spending. Students had the opportunity to assess different credit card marketing campaigns to identify potential benefits as well as potential pitfalls.  The students also learned about different sources of financial aid, such as scholarships, grants and loans.

“Through its work in the community, the NYJL recognized a growing need of its community partners to educate their clients on the fundamentals of personal finance,” said Jana Beauchamp, who oversees all of the NYLJ’s community-based councils.  “Our partners recognized that without these tools, many of their clients were struggling to move beyond their current situation and achieve financial stability. The NYJL’s partnership with the FDIC has provided our volunteers with training and materials to enhance our ability to serve many clients from a number of our different community partners.”

Providing Hope to Camden Youths

The 2011 U.S. Census lists Camden, New Jersey, as among America’s poorest cities, with many of its young people living below the poverty line. But there is hope in the community due in part to organizations such as Hopeworks ‘N Camden. For more than 16 years, the nonprofit organization (better known as Hopeworks) uses education, technology and entrepreneurship to help young men and women ages 14–23 identify and earn a sustainable future.  For the last two years, the FDIC’s Money Smart curriculum has been a key part of Hopeworks’ financial capability effort.

“Having the Money Smart curriculum available whenever we need it is a key tool for us,” said Executive Director Dan Rhoton.  “Different youth respond to different lessons, and the accessibility and clarity of the information in Money Smart is a powerful vehicle to engage youth around managing their money wisely.”

Hopeworks’ training program offers young people the opportunity to master basic Web page design and development skills.  As trainees move on into paid internships, Money Smart provides important resources to help them explore their financial future. 

“The nice thing about budgeting and other tools is that it helped me realize I do have enough [money], if I am careful,” said Shared Hakeem, one Hopeworks trainee who reflected on how a spending plan can help prioritize spending decisions.

Rhoton noted that because different youths have different life circumstances, challenges and concerns, the flexibility of the Money Smart curriculum allows Hopeworks staff to give interns immediate information and resources for growth.

Hopeworks recently won the 2016 Non-profit Organization of the Year by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which hands out Excellence Awards honoring small businesses in the region.

 “As Hopeworks continues to expand its work in financial literacy and capability,” Rhoton said, “the Money Smart curriculum remains a key tool in our toolbox!”

See more success stories from Money Smart News

For help or information on how to use the Money Smart financial education curriculum, contact communityaffairs@fdic.gov.


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