Empowering Disadvantaged Women and Families Through Financial Education
The WHF Foundation of Washington, DC, consists of members from Women in Housing and Finance (WHF), an organization established in 1979 for professionals in the housing, finance and legal fields. Since its creation by WHF 15 years ago, the Foundation has helped women and families with financial needs, including more than 250 financial literacy classes that it has conducted. Members who sign up to be volunteer instructors use the FDIC's Money Smart curriculum to help low-income women and children with basic financial literacy skills, housing assistance, transition services and economic empowerment.
One of the WHF Foundation's partners is Calvary Women's Services in Washington, which provides homeless women, typically between the ages of 31 and 50, with housing, health, employment and education programs that empower them for independent living. The Foundation's financial literacy program at Calvary consists of 90-minute classes in basic money-management skills taught once a week for eight weeks by WHF volunteer instructors. The approximately 20 women who attend learn how to manage debt, save, protect their financial identity, and repair damaged credit. Each class is conducted by two WHF volunteer instructors. And at the end of each quarterly session, the women's achievements are celebrated at a graduation ceremony.
The program at Calvary was launched in July 2013 by Lisa Andrews, a former WHF Foundation President and one of the volunteer instructors. "I have had the pleasure of teaching the first and the last class of our eight-week program and have been thrilled to see the extraordinary progress made by our students in building the financial skills they need to make wise financial decisions; it is shown by their test results and their incredibly positive feedback about the course," she said. "One student even signed up for the class a second time, saying she enjoyed the class so much and thought she could learn more. The experience is as rewarding for our instructors, too. All have been amazed by the Calvary residents' enthusiasm to learn."
Nicola Myers, an FDIC Community Affairs Specialist who trains Money Smart instructors, sat in on one of the classes at Calvary and said, "The women ensured that they had their materials ready and they actively participated. They also were eager to attend another class."
Elaine Johnson, Education Coordinator at Calvary Women's Services, added, "Women took actions as a result of the class discussion. They made appointments to receive credit counseling, they opened bank accounts and they reviewed their credit reports. Everyone who attended even one session received the gift of valuable information. At the graduation ceremony, it was clear that women felt empowered to face their financial history, knowing they did not have to face it alone."
Participants from a WHF Foundation financial literacy class for residents of Calvary Women's Services included (left to right): Panya Monford, a volunteer instructor; Mary Martha Fortney, President of the WHF Foundation; Lisa Andrews, former WHF Foundation President and a volunteer instructor; Judy, a Money Smart graduate; Elaine Johnson, Education Coordinator at Calvary Women's Services; and Trena, a Money Smart graduate.
One Bank's Experience Teaching Financial Education and Earning CRA Credit
One of the many banks that have earned positive consideration under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for participation in financial education efforts is Farmers & Merchants Bank of Central California (F&M Bank), based in Lodi, California. We thought you'd be interested in its story as it involves a new program aimed at youths.
F&M Bank adopted the FDIC's Money Smart curriculum in 2009 to provide training to organizations on how to apply for affordable housing programs, save money, obtain credit, follow a budget, and protect against identity theft. The bank also used Money Smart to educate prospective home buyers on renting versus owning. To maximize its impact, it also paired Money Smart with various asset-building products and programs. Like many banks that use Money Smart, F&M Bank also has provided donations to nonprofits to fund implementation of the program.
And in September 2013, F&M Bank became a member of the Money Smart Alliance, which involves promoting and/or enhancing the implementation of the FDIC's curriculum. "F&M Bank is passionate about improving financial literacy because we believe that well-informed citizens will make better financial choices," stated Kent A. Steinwert, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of F&M Bank.
One of the most recent endeavors F&M Bank has undertaken is its leadership role in "Bank on Your Dream," a financial literacy program designed to educate at-risk young people from high poverty areas in Stockton, California. F&M Bank led a group of organizations that taught the eight modules of Money Smart for Young Adults at the Teen Impact Center, which is operated by the Family Resource & Referral Center (FRRC) of San Joaquin County in Stockton. The FRRC provides support to children and families in need of social and training services. The implementation of the financial education program was made possible in part by a $15,000 AHEAD (Access to Housing and Economic Assistance for Development) grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.
The Bank on Your Dream program started in the fall of 2013, and 15 F&M Bank employees taught such topics as setting financial goals and using different techniques to manage money. Many of the students indicated that they were hearing about financial information for the first time, as discussing money management is not common in their homes. Allina Flores, a senior at Lincoln High School in Stockton, said, "I attended these courses because I see how my family struggles with these issues and I don't want to make those same mistakes."
Added Cassandra Angello, Vice President and CRA Officer at F&M Bank, "Financial education is a critical first step to financial self-sufficiency and in breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty."
A graduation was held in January of 2014 for the class of seven students. F&M Bank gave a $200 scholarship and certificate of completion to each graduate. After graduation, one of the students opened an account with his mother.
"Many said their parents have never had a bank account, which bolsters Cassandra's point about interrupting generational poverty," noted Leslie Reece, Director of Program Services at FRRC. "They also said they would be more likely to ask questions or to go into a bank before deciding on opening an account."
A second session began on February 12, 2014 and ended April 16, 2014, with a graduating class of 24 students.
"By partnering with the Family Resource & Referral Center of San Joaquin County, we are able to directly reach area youth who will benefit from increased financial literacy," concluded Steinwert.
Cassandra Angello (left), Vice President and CRA Officer at F&M Bank in Lodi, California, is shown with Antoineaha, a student at Stagg High School in Stockton and a "Bank On Your Dream" graduate, and Kay Ruhstaller, Executive Director of the Family Resource & Referral Center of San Joaquin County.