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Youth Financial Empowerment Initiative: Financial Literacy for Parents and Kids

The Issue: How to get parents and kids to feel comfortable discussing financial topics in a long-term financial literacy program – and better relate to each other around the difficult topic of money.
 NC Collaborative - financial empowermentWho: Tarin L. Washington is a Program Associate at The Collaborative, a private, nonprofit serving North Carolina. It is the lead agency for North Carolina Saves and works to implement and promote strategies to build family economic security and individual financial capability.
What: “Learn To Earn: The Youth Financial Empowerment Initiative” is an innovative financial literacy program. It brings together parents and kids to develop financial skills over a school year.

  • The program includes youth, 14-18, with their parents in regular financial literacy classes. Classes meet 6-8 pm in a public library. Dinner is provided during the first half-hour; this is both an incentive to attend and a way to build rapport and community within the class.
  • As opposed to beginning with a budget lesson (or a similar concrete financial skill), the program starts with two classes on financial attitudes. The Money Habitudes activity occupies most of the second class. This helps participants relax and better understand how and why they spend and save. This financial self-awareness prepares participants for later lessons.
  • Washington planned to have the parents sit together and, separately, have all the kids sit together when doing the Money Habitudes activity. However, she ended up running the activity with parents sitting next to their children. This created more discussion between parents and kids. “They were looking at each other’s cards and if someone didn’t understand, they would ask their parents. I liked that interaction. They were engaged with each other,” says Washington.
  • Parents used the Adult version of Money Habitudes cards and kids used the Teen version. They sorted their decks at the same time and got their money personality results at the same time too.
  • Washington asked the younger participants to share some of their results and then asked the parents what they thought of their child’s money personality results. Parents then shared about their results and the teens were asked to comment. “We want this to become a normal conversation in households,” says Washington.
  • Although the next class went on to other financial skills, Washington says the cards (and the financial habits and attitudes insights from them) continue to be brought up in successive classes.
  • Other classes and topics include budgeting, credit reports and credit scores, savings and bank accounts, identity theft, careers, car buying, and predatory lending. These lessons are drawn from a variety of financial curricula and guest speaker presentations. Participants also set financial goals throughout the program.
  • The key outcome is for youth to open a savings account early and add to it with incentive money for attendance and homework completion. Washington says, “Research shows that youth with bank accounts in their name are more likely to attend college. “We aim for their overall success, fostering early savings habits and positive money management skills.
  • We encourage youth and their parents to sign up as North Carolina Savers at


  • “I thought it was important to take the fear out of the whole topic. People hear ‘budgeting’ and they shut down. So instead, I wanted to start with how money influences parents and kids. I wanted them to understand how they think about money – without getting into the numbers.”
  • “There used to be a lot of class discussion around, ‘I do this because it’s what my friends do’ or ‘I want to have what my friends have’ and I don’t hear so much of that anymore. It’s more like ‘This is what I’m thinking about’ or ‘This is what makes sense for me as opposed to what’s cool or what someone else has.’ I think Money Habitudes helps with that.”