Success Stories from the Start: Money Smart Partners Look Back at the First 10 Years
Don't miss the tips for financial educators immediately following these reflections from Money Smart partners.
With the help of the FDIC's Money Smart curriculum, many banking institutions and their community partners -- such as schools, nonprofit organizations, and state and local government agencies -- have begun to offer financial education in their community. For the 10th anniversary of Money Smart, this edition of our "Success Stories" highlights reflections from 10 practitioners on their work over the past decade.
"Money Smart helps us reach out to the community, especially schools. The students are receptive and really absorb the material."
-- Pamela Days-Luketich, Community Education Officer, Chelsea Groton Bank, Groton, CT
"The City of Simi Valley began using the Money Smart program online as a prerequisite to receiving a grant from either our Security Deposit Assistance Program (which helps low-income families secure a rental unit in the city) or our Eviction Prevention Assistance Program (which provides a grant to low-income renters or homeowners who are facing the loss of their home due to an unforeseen circumstance). After tracking the reasons why people needed assistance in the first place, it was discovered that some households had sought payday loans and continued to get further behind. We believe the Money Smart program has made our programs more efficient by helping only those that were willing to be more financially literate."
-- Shannon Nash, Senior Planner, Department of Environmental Services Housing, City of Simi Valley, CA
"It is very effective for adults. We do a lot of outreach with non-profit agencies to establish knowledge of finance among the clients, including immigrants."
-- Leo MacNeil, Senior Vice President, HarborOne Credit Union, Brockton, MA
"The Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank has been using Money Smart for at least the past six years. In 2010 we dedicated a full-time employee as our Financial Education Officer. This person has completely embraced the Money Smart curriculum and uses it as a base for all other curriculum design. Money Smart is one of the most well thought-out programs out there. It is well-organized in the way that content builds from module to module. It is easy for facilitators to teach and easy for participants to follow and grasp concepts."
-- Patricia A. Walsh, Manager, Training and Development, Cape Cod Five Cents Bank in Orleans, MA
"Many workshop attendees comment that they 'had never thought about saving money by putting a little away before they pay bills.' They also report that 'it surprises them how much they spend daily' after they tracked their expenses for three days using a spending diary. Also, in one class, several individuals shared that they would be applying for a checking account at a local bank that offered a second-chance program (for people who previously had their bank account closed by a bank). They were pleased that they were able to obtain and maintain a checking account once again."
-- Jane E. Schockemoehl, Iowa Workforce Development Program Coordinator, Des Moines, IA
"We have been using Money Smart for nearly 10 years. The Money Smart program matched the goals and objectives of our student population at that time, who were clients of a local residence for survivors of domestic violence. The women had limited positive experiences with financial matters and the Money Smart curriculum was a springboard for conversations addressing credit repair, budgeting, and appropriate banking products and services. Within the past two years, we have also begun using the Money Smart curriculum for local high school students. We supplement the curriculum with additional activities or real-world anecdotes and examples or shorten the module based on available time."
-- Susan Paley, Community Relations Officer, The Village Bank, Auburndale, MA
"Money Smart keeps progressing over time to meet the changing needs of our community, like the updated module on financial recovery. We deal very often with the unbanked and the underbanked. I see a lot of accounts being opened as a result of Money Smart, and these participants are learning how to save money. Money Smart helps them take a realistic look at their finances and see when buying a can of soda every day can really add up."
-- Teresa Harrison, Central Arkansas Development Council, Benton, AR
"Our families, who are currently experiencing homelessness and primarily include young mothers, are allowed the opportunity to have caring bankers come on-site and present principles of money management and financial literacy. These classes have been extremely beneficial to those who have participated, allowing them, in a non-threatening environment, to learn more-effective ways to save and budget money, to learn more about financial institutions and what they can offer, and to give skills needed to enhance their self-sufficiency. The classes also allow for families to think about budgeting and saving for their future, often thoughts that had been put aside due to their current homelessness. We so appreciate the ongoing availability of financial literacy classes using the Money Smart curriculum as we have seen firsthand the successes of our families due to the increased skills and knowledge."
-- Erin Spaulding, Executive Director, Old Colony YMCA Family Life Center, Brockton, MA
"Money Smart is concise and easy to present. It also allows us to add additional information, depending on the subject or category being facilitated, to meet our participants' needs. The certificates provided give our students a sense of accomplishment and completion. The updated versions have been very helpful with our Spanish-speaking community. We also have a Creole-speaking community that could benefit from the FDIC's new Creole translation of Money Smart, and we look forward to using it. And, over the past year, we have been using the computer-based version that has allowed us to accommodate working families."
-- Betty A. McCree, Program Director, Wealth & Asset Development Business Center, Stamford, CT
"We continue to use Money Smart because we find it to be a very good starting point for people. It's easy to find basic information and if participants want more we can find it. And it's free!! We especially like the new module on how to recover from financial problems. We present to a wide range of audiences. For example, high school students, who have become adults and actually come back and say that "it is the best piece of education we've had!" In addition, we have people in transitional housing who are able to put their lives back together and become stable by learning about repairing their credit and budgeting."
-- Doreen F. Allen, Branch President, Merchants Bank, Northfield, VT
Creating New Success Stories: Tips for Financial Educators for the Next 10 Years
What are some of the most important lessons learned by FDIC staff in the first 10 years of Money Smart that financial educators can put to good use? Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC's Outreach and Program Development Section, which includes the Money Smart program, suggested 10 strategies for financial educators for the next 10 years:
1. Understand that one size doesn't fit all. Make sure that the information meets the needs of the students -- perhaps with the help of the assessment tool in each module of Money Smart -- and that it is being presented in an appropriate, practical way. "One reason each module of the Money Smart curriculum is so detailed is to enable instructors to pick and choose from the material," he added. "But remember, people don't always know what they don't know, so don't eliminate a core concept just because it wasn't something participants expressed an interest in learning." Reynolds also recommended that educators take the results of their needs analysis into consideration when promoting or otherwise marketing workshops "so that prospective attendees can relate to the subject matter of the training and understand how it will be useful for them."
2. Encourage educators to have goals and action plans for their sessions. "Just as Money Smart participants should be trained to identify their financial goals and develop plans to achieve them, financial educators should know why they are using the curriculum and what types of outcomes they want to see in their participants' financial lives," Reynolds said. "By understanding what they generally want to accomplish, educators can more easily deliver the relevant portions of the curriculum and identify supportive services or programs."
3. Aim to change behavior. "Financial education is a means to an end, not the end," Reynolds explained. "Financial education offered to help underserved consumers should lead them to act on their goals, whether that's by opening their first deposit account, implementing a strategy to pay down high-cost debt, or building a small business."
4. Pursue collaborations involving financial institutions and nonprofit organizations. Why? "To spur opportunities for students to act upon their new knowledge," Reynolds said. "For example, students in a school who are taught Money Smart for Young Adults and who have access to a school-based savings program can easily act upon their knowledge by starting a savings account...and develop habits that may last a lifetime." He added that the Money Smart program is largely intended to help facilitate collaborations between banks and nonprofit organizations to benefit consumers of all ages.
5. Keep up with current developments relating to personal finances and how to effectively deliver financial education. For example, new laws or regulations may affect what consumers should do when shopping for a mortgage, and changing industry practices may bring new products, product features, or services that consumers need to be educated on. The FDIC's quarterly Money Smart News is one resource you can use to stay abreast of developments of interest to financial educators.
6. Avoid the urge to develop new resources. "First focus on how to effectively deliver financial education using your existing -- and likely limited -- resources," Reynolds said. "This is a good example of where partnerships you develop can be key to leveraging scarce resources." Remember that the Money Smart curriculum can be modified to meet unique educational needs without prior approval from FDIC.
7. Think creatively when deciding where to deliver financial education. Classroom-based delivery is not the only option -- or even always the best way -- to deliver financial education. Other good places include locations where consumers make financial decisions. For example, on a financial institution's Web site where consumers can select and open a new account, consider linking to information on deposit accounts on the FDIC's Money Smart Podcast Network. Financial education also can be integrated into scripts used by bank staff or counselors at nonprofit organizations.
8. Recognize that teachers, bankers and others who deliver financial education don't have to be personal finance experts to get started. "The key is for educators to first take time to get up to speed on both the core content and fundamental strategies for effective workshops, and then to be familiar with the subject matter of the workshop they are teaching," Reynolds said. He noted that the FDIC's Money Smart curriculum "has resources that are perfect for this task, including the Guide to Presenting that is included on every CD." In some cases, training specialists may work with financial institution staff who bring special expertise on personal finance topics to be discussed.
9. Document your results and celebrate your successes. Start with the pre- and post-assessments in each module of Money Smart to measure knowledge gains, and explore ways to measure behavior changes over time. For example, for an educational initiative promoting second-chance checking accounts (for people who previously had an account closed because of mismanagement), explore ways to track how many of them opened new accounts and how well they are using them. Also consider anecdotal evidence, such as by collecting testimonials from participants, if possible. "Impressive facts and testimonials can help persuade an organization's leaders to continue to allocate resources to support the delivery of financial education," Reynolds commented.
10. Encourage participants to continue their financial education after they "graduate."Money Smart is designed to help consumers learn the basics of personal finance, particularly relating to banking services, but they can and should build on this knowledge with additional training or personal counseling on topics such as investments, retirement planning or preparing for homeownership after mastering the basics in Money Smart. Start by finding relevant resources at www.mymoney.gov -- a Web site with consumer information from more than 20 federal agencies. Consumers also can subscribe to receive practical, money-saving advice through our quarterly FDIC Consumer News.