A national nonprofit based in San Francisco, MyPath reaches 4,000 youth each year, ages 14-24, in California, Nevada, Washington, and Missouri through more than 50 partner sites. The organization focuses on building economic pathways by integrating banking and saving into youth employment programs.
A key part of MyPath’s model is to work with low-income youth at the time they get their first paychecks. It’s a crucial moment to capture their attention and help them develop healthy financial habits for the future, says senior program manager, Carlo Solis.
MyPath uses Money Habitudes® cards in its foundational summer and year-round youth employment program partner sites. In the programs, which range from weeks to months in length, students typically go through a number of classes while they are working at their jobs. MyPath folds its curriculum into the programs’ existing structure with both in-person and technology delivery approaches.
MyPath begins by having the students consider the risks and benefits of putting their money in a traditional financial institution. Then participants are given the opportunity to open an account with a local credit union. In the next meeting, they use Money Habitudes to better understand their financial habits and attitudes and explore their relationship with money. For many, it becomes clear that their families have had a strong influence on how they see and use money, says Solis. The students look at big and small decisions and many see daily choices like buying a movie ticket for a friend in a new light. Finally, youth work on tracking expenses, budgeting and setting savings goals using MyPath Money, MyPath’s platform accessible by smartphone, tablet or desktop. The program’s average savings rate is 34% and 96% of youth meet their savings goal.
Prior to welcoming youth into the program, MyPath trains its own facilitators with Money Habitudes, in the spring. Doing so “kills two birds with one stone” says Solis about how even adults who will be working with participants gain new financial self-knowledge that they find valuable. Solis prefers doing the activity with a group of 15-20 students and dedicates an hour to sorting and interpreting the Money Habitudes cards. He says that 99 percent of participants report that their money personality mix accurately describes their financial tendencies.
“Money Habitudes is very simple but profound. We want youth to achieve their financial goals and Money Habitudes helps give them agency to make their own decisions,” says Solis.
The Issue: How to create a productive connection between financial coaches and coaching clients at Financial Opportunity Centers. And how to demonstrate the intricacies of a financial coaching program to funders.
Who: Valerie Moffitt is a Program Manager with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Toledo, Ohio.
What: Nationally, LISC supports Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) in many cities. In Toledo, there are three FOCs that are run by partner organizations. The centers are designed to offer integrated services in an asset building context: financial counseling and coaching, employment coaching, and income support counseling.
- LISC uses a financial coaching model in its Financial Opportunity Centers. The model is based on work done by the Center for Working Families and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- Instead of prescriptive financial counseling, LISC’s model relies on coaches who help clients make their own choices and come up with their own solutions. “A coach asks more than they tell. A coach will ask you what you need and then ask the follow-up questions so you can figure out how to get there. And then they help hold you accountable to the plan or goals you set,” says Moffitt.
- In Toledo, LISC has 8 full-time financial coaches who work at the three Financial Opportunity Centers. Each person has been certified as a financial coach after completing a 40-hour program offered by Central New Mexico Community College. Coaches work with about 200 clients per year. Moffitt says that, of these, about 40-50 clients will remain engaged for at least 4-5 coaching sessions.
- The program equips coaches with a number of hands-on coaching tools, including life wheels, priority charts, visualization techniques and Money Habitudes cards. The cards help coaches initiate conversation with clients. They also help clients self assess their financial habits and attitudes.
- “We want clients to understand what their values and their attitudes are and how those are – or are not – matching up with their behaviors. And sometimes people get really stuck or it takes a long time to develop that trusting relationship with your coach so Money Habitudes is one of the things our coaches use during their initial visits. It helps a coach facilitate an honest conversation with a client,” says Moffitt.
- In addition, Moffitt says that LISC uses the cards to demonstrate to funders how the financial opportunity centers work.
- When doing site tours, privacy constraints often restrict funders from seeing how financial coaching is actually delivered at the centers.
- LISC’s financial model is more involved than simply teaching people money management in a class setting. One-on-one financial coaching is time-and resource-intensive; it’s important to convey to funders why supporting this coaching model is both worthwhile and more expensive than other less intensive services.
- LISC helps FOC partners convey to funders how simply teaching skills or prescribing a financial to-do list may be easier and cheaper but end up being less effective. To help funders understand the challenging aspects of behavior change, LISC FOC partners walk them through doing the Money Habitudes money personality activity They are also exposed to the Beantown simulation.
- “The Money Habitudes cards are a tool in the coaches’ toolbox. It really helps break the ice with clients and helps them see themselves. For a coach, after speaking with someone, you can come to an understanding of where you think they are; the Money Habitudes cards help them self-define and really show where they are. Then they can figure out those areas they need to work on with their behaviors,” says Moffitt.
- “It’s hard to get funders to understand that we can’t deliver one-and-done service; when you look at our per-person costs, it can seem really high. And funders will ask, ‘Why can’t someone come into your office, you tell them how to spend their money better and they leave and there’s a good outcome?’ We really need to talk about the long-term behavior change that’s needed and, to demonstrate that, we can use the Money Habitudes cards to help funders recognize the challenges in their own behaviors and see things they might not have realized before. It really opens their eyes to why the process is so lengthy.”
The Issue: How to develop a scalable peer teaching financial literacy program that’s fun and easy enough for kids to teach other kids.
Who: Amanda Christensen is an Extension Assistant Professor with Utah State University and a 4-H & Youth Programs Educator with Morgan County Extension.
What: Christensen, Dave Francis, Zuri Garcia and Stacey MacArthur, Associate Professors at Utah State University Extension, created the Utah 4-H & Fidelity Investments Money Mentors Program, a unique peer-to-peer financial education curriculum for high school and junior high school students. The peer teaching project won the Fidelity Investments Financial Education Grant Challenge. The financial education challenge sought “innovative and engaging ideas that improve the financial literacy of high school students in low-income areas and that utilize Fidelity’s employee volunteers and financial knowledge.” Utah 4-H’s winning idea was selected from 73 entries submitted from 30 states. The program draws on 4-H’s “Teens Reaching Youth” model.
- Seeking a model that scales easily, the financial education program relies on a train-the-trainer and peer education model.
- “We train Fidelity volunteers on the curriculum. The Fidelity volunteers teach high-school-aged kids on the curriculum. And then the high school kids turn around and go back to their counties throughout the state and teach middle-school-aged kids. So it’s train-the-trainer to the ultimate degree,” says Christensen.
- As a result, the peer teaching curriculum has to be simple and engaging. “Somebody who knows nothing about financial literacy education can teach it,” says Christensen.
- In the first stage of the peer teaching program, a few dozen high school students were drawn from across the state and then trained by Fidelity Investments employees.
- The training for the students happens during one weekend. Students get one day of training on how to teach (classroom management, etc.) and one day of training on the Money Mentors Curriculum.
- High school students who are selected for the program do not need any prior financial knowledge or expertise.
- The financial training is six lessons. The first lesson uses Money Habitudes cards.
- The succeeding 1-hour lessons include: Creating a Spending Blueprint, Saving and sharing (philanthropy), Credit, Investing, and Investing in Yourself (human capital). Although designed to be taught as a series, each lesson can be taught as a standalone class too.
- “We do Money Habitudes right off the bat. As a financial educator, I think it’s something that people need to address and be aware of before they ever start talking about investing or wise use of credit or creating a spending plan. They’ve got to know where they’re coming from and what their foundation is. So that’s the first lesson,” says Christensen.
- The Money Habitudes lesson takes 20-30 minutes.
- Using the Money Habitudes cards helps students understand their financial habits and attitudes but it also sets a fun, hands-on tone for the rest of the class and opens up dialogue about money in an easy way.
- Before sorting the cards, students fill out a brief money values worksheet. After the activity they get a fake $100 bill and then label how they’d spend the money (perhaps breaking it up into $50, $30 and $20 sub-sections) based on their Money Habitudes.
- Once trained, teens return to their communities with a mandate to then train at least 15 younger students on the 6-hour program over the next year. This may be in schools, camps or after-school programs like 4-H. High school students receive awards for reaching more kids.
- High school students teach in a “TRY Team.” (TRY stands for “Teens Reaching Youth.”) Each team is made up of 2-4 teens and their adult coach. The coach is usually a local 4-H educator or teacher.
- The goal of the peer teaching program is to easily multiply the number of instances of financial education as one team of high school students will teach dozens of other students. And, as younger students are taught finances, the older students continuously learn the material by teaching it, a common 4-H practice.
“Money Habitudes is the first actual activity in the first lesson. It’s an individual thing – each kid does it on their own – but we come together at the end of that activity and you have some automatic talking points. It’s the first day of the first lesson. Kids don’t know each other well, plus we’re talking about the difficult topic of money – and who knows what their financial situation is – but Money Habitudes gives them a comfortable foundation and puts them on even ground so they can talk about money. It gives them common ground,” says Christensen.
The Issue: How to make financial classes for women more engaging and welcoming while providing valuable skills for handling money.
Who: Emily Adams is an agriculture and natural resources educator with Ohio State University Extension Service in Coshocton County.
What: Adams runs Annie’s Project in Coshocton County. She also runs a follow-up financial education program for women called Moving Beyond The Basics. Annie’s Project is, at its heart, a risk management program for women. Now managed by riskIowa State Extension, the program fosters problem solving, record keeping, and decision-making skills in farm women.
- The interactive, sharing nature of Money Habitudes aligns well with the larger objectives of Annie’s Project classes. The women’s financial education classes are designed to be hands-on instead of just lectures. The project also strives to utilize peer learning and networking in a safe, non-threatening environment.
- After working with the Money Habitudes cards, the first night’s class covers financial recordkeeping practices and vocabulary as well as how financial statements work together.
- Participants have the opportunity to borrow the cards and do them at home with other people after the first class.
- Later classes build on the first night. These cover balance sheets, accrual adjustments to income statements, cash flow estimation, electronic recordkeeping, standard financial ratios and benchmarks.
- “It’s a really nice activity-based learning to have for the first night. It helps the women get more comfortable with each other and sets the stage for how you relate to money and how you deal with money,” says Adams.
- “You’re going to learn all these skills and all this technical information, but, at the end of the day, if you can’t go home and talk to your husband, brother or whomever your business partner may be about these financial decisions and get to the root of where financial troubles may be coming from, then the rest of the classes are for naught. Understanding how you relate to money and being able to communicate that to other people is a really important, really fundamental skill set.”
- “I don’t think we’d have people complete all six weeks if we started out the first class with just sitting down and doing a budget or hearing a lecture about finances. We take a holistic approach to adult education.”
- “Money Habitudes is so hands-on, it’s so immediate and there’s such great feedback on it.”
The Issue: How to add interesting, engaging content to a continuing education financial program.
Who: Zona Hutson is an Extension Agent with WVU. She works in Doddridge County, West Virginia.
What: WVU Extension Service teaches a recertification class for the state’s auctioneers. Hutson has been teaching the auctioneers’ course for 15 years. Money Habitudes is used as part of the continuing education financial program.
- The recertification course for auctioneers is six hours long and is usually held on a Saturday.
- The continuing education financial program typically has 30-40 people. It is mostly an audience of older men.
- Hutson uses the Money Habitudes cards as a financial ice breaker and a way to engage the class. “When they come in, they’re not necessarily in the greatest mood because they have to spend a whole Saturday getting training. They don’t come in with the best attitude, but the Money Habitudes cards are a good way to get people to open up and feel better. The cards are fun and they really lighten the mood,” she says.
- The goal of the auctioneer class is teach people about business aspects of auctioneering. However, Hutson says, “It’s always nice to bring something different to the table for them, to keep them engaged in something new and thought-provoking.”
- In addition to being an energizing activity and helping the auctioneers better understand how they see and use money in a business context, the Money Habitudes activity also helps them understand – and be able to discuss – how they handle money at home. “It really engages people in a discussion about their family finances,” says Hutson.
- Participants often realize how their business life affects their home life and come to see more clearly what their financial strengths and challenges are.
- The continuing education financial program devotes about 45 minutes to doing Money Habitudes. After doing the Money Habitudes sorting exercise to determine each person’s money personality type, there is usually some group discussion about financial habits and attitudes.
- Whereas other financial education classes that use Money Habitudes will move on to modules like doing a budget or buying a home, the auctioneers’ class then covers other aspects of the industry. Although there is no fixed curriculum, other sessions may include identifying counterfeit bills, spotting fake antiques, and accepting and using credit cards.
- “They’re so unique, so neat and so fun. It’s a real thought-provoking thing to go through those cards!”
- “I would certainly use the Money Habitudes cards as an introductory activity for any financial class. It’s a great way to get people to open their minds to financial management.”
- “It’s so easy to use. It’s one of those things to definitely have in your arsenal. If you need a program quickly, you just pull Money Habitudes out and you’ve got it!”
- “We don’t always have a lot of time, so I know this is a program that is easy to do, it’s fun and people really like it.”
- “Finances are a hard topic and a very personal one. The cards make it a much lighter issue.”
- “People can think, ‘Oh, we’re just playing cards,’ but it has a lot of value beyond getting them to relax and have fun. It really helps people understand who they are and why they do what they do.”
The Issue: How to help people understand their financial attitudes and spending habits in a fun way in a financial education program.
Who: Susan Routh is an Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences in Grady County, Oklahoma. She also serves on the executive board of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS).
What: Routh teaches the Making Sense of Money Management program. The financial education program is offered within a four-county area (Grady, Caddo, Stephens, and Jefferson County) for bogus check offenders and the public. The class is designed to help families and individuals to better manage household finances. Routh uses Money Habitudes as part of the financial education program.
- The financial education program is offered monthly. The financial classes usually have 10-20 participants. Students come a diverse range of ages.
- The 4-hour financial class is usually held during a weekday afternoon. Participants pay a nominal fee of $15 for the class, which covers materials they take home.
- The public can attend the money management classes, but most of the students come from a partnership with the district attorney’s office which refers people who have gone to court for writing bad checks.
- Because students are compelled to attend and because they are struggling financially (part of the reason they wrote bad checks), there is a sense of defensiveness that a facilitator has to overcome.
- As a result, Routh says the approach is one where the class isn’t structured to be punitive, to say, “you’re bad and did something illegal.” Instead, Routh takes an approach “that you did this because you needed money and how can we help you so your finances are in better shape?”
- “We don’t want to lecture to people. We want the class to be hands-on. We want people to be able to practice and really use what we’re teaching. That’s where the Money Habitudes cards come in,” says Routh.
- The Making Sense of Money Management class starts with an introduction about financial management. The financial education program then covers:
- what is a check register and what is a bank statement; what it means to use a checking account.
- credit reports and how to manage credit well.
- debt management
- the importance of savings and emergency savings
- attitudes about spending and goal setting
- financial goal setting
- making a spending plan; what’s coming and going out
- Money Habitudes cards are used in the section for understanding spending habits. Participants are allowed 20-25 minutes to sort the cards.
- After doing the sorting activity, participants find their own money personality type and go through the interpretation cards. This may be followed by group discussion on spending habits, social influences on spending, etc.
- Hand-in-hand with understanding one’s current behavior around money, students also create a SMART financial goal about where they want to be in 30 days. These goals are then mailed to participants later in the month.
- Because of the time limitations of the financial education program, Routh and a few colleagues developed a financial education toolkit for students to take home. It includes resources to help people manage their finances on their own.
- “At the end, people always want to take the cards home and share them with people they share their finances with so they can understand where other people are coming from,” says Routh.
- “When people use the cards, there’s often a moment of truth,” says Routh.
- “Reading about the different personality types opens the door to people giving themselves a chance to switch lanes.”
- “We’ve seen remarkable changes in the people who’ve gone though the class,” says Routh. There have been about 250 participants since the program started in 2008.
The Issue: How to make TANF financial classes more approachable and effective.
Who: Sonya McDaniel, CFLE, is an extension educator who focuses on family and consumer science in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma.
What: McDaniel runs a series of financial classes for the county’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program. A federal program through the Department of Health and Human Services, TANF provides local assistance and work opportunities to needy families.
- McDaniel teaches financial classes for three different TANF groups in her county: a low-literacy group, a group completing GED requirements and a group getting vocational skills training.
- Students get other life skills and career training through the TANF program; McDaniel does an in-service on financial skills.
- Typically, the financial classes have 10-12 people. Everyone works with his or her own deck of Money Habitudes cards.
- McDaniel teaches a standard series of three financial classes for these TANF groups. Each of the financial classes is an hour and the series takes three weeks.
- Before switching to using Money Habitudes, the series of financial classes began with a first class that focused almost exclusively on needs and wants. However, it was not as dynamic, engaging or fun as McDaniel wanted. She always believed in starting with a less threatening class before covering financial skills in later classes.
- After an introduction to the series and a brief overview of how habits and attitudes about money are formed, the entirety of the hour-long class is devoted to doing Money Habitudes. Participants sort their cards and then go through an interpretation step, looking at their money personality profile.
- This first class still maintains some of the big ideas from the original needs and wants class. McDaniel says the class on habits and attitudes, featuring Money Habitudes, does the following:
- Energizes people and gets them excited while also putting them at ease because the activity is fun, hands-on and feels like a game.
- Establishes an environment that is nonjudgmental.
- Starts people talking and sharing in positive ways about their financial experiences.
- Helps participants acknowledge that they have money and make spending decisions. Without the Money Habitudes activity, McDaniel says participants tend to dismiss financial education as pointless (and they therefore don’t participate) because they say they have so little money that the class isn’t relevant to them.
- “Most of the time, the assessment that comes from doing the cards is dead on. Very rarely will I have someone who says it isn’t right,” says McDaniel about the money personality profile results they get by doing the Money Habitudes activity.
- Participants in the financial classes generally know each other because they spend so much time together in the TANF program. McDaniel says students often interact when sorting the cards and looking at their money personality results. While these discussions are often full of laughter and smiles, sometimes students offer serious insight and advice to each other.
- After doing the money personality interpretation step, there is some group discussion about the results.
- At the end of the first class, McDaniel asks the students to keep a spending journal to go over the next week in class. The worksheet she uses comes from Idaho Extension’s Dollar Decisions financial curriculum. She says that students can also make their own tracking sheet by simply folding a piece of paper a few times and using the boxes for different days or categories (e.g., gas, food, etc.).
- After a first class that students really enjoy, McDaniel says she gets a warm reception when returning for the next financial classes.
- The second and third financial classes are drawn from the Dollar Decisions financial curriculum, which is written to “teach low- and moderate-income adults successful ways to track expenses and make ends meet.” The curriculum (which is available in English and Spanish) can be adapted for one 30-minute class, one 1-hour class, or two 1-hour classes. “Dollar Decisions is really great for this audience and adding Money Habitudes at the beginning really sets the right tone,” says McDaniel.
- The second class starts with setting a financial goal. McDaniel says the goals are more relevant and specific (versus just “I want to say more”) after students have done the first Money Habitudes class. This class then covers making a spending plan. McDaniel says that the students’ budgets end up being more realistic after the first class. For example, students may still build in the cost of cigarettes or going to a casino (often omitted when people feel judged by a teacher or counselor), but set realistic goals for such expenses. This class also covers tracking expenses and how to stay within a budget. The curriculum includes videos which are included in the class.
- The third financial class covers how to manage money. This may be using a ledger, a calendar or envelope systems.
- “Students are a lot more receptive the next time I walk through the door when I’ve done Money Habitudes first. They’re like, ‘Oh, we’re going to talk about money and it’s not going to be bad!’ I do Money Habitudes at the beginning because it makes people more receptive. And it sets the tone that we’re not going to be judgmental; that we’re not going to come in and say, ‘You’re a horrible money manager!’ The cards set the tone that it’s all about understanding yourself.”
- “Money Habitudes helps me get to know the students better so I can tailor thoughts or examples to them, or when helping them follow through in writing a budget. I was very bored with teaching money management and it gave me something more entertaining and interactive to teach,” says McDaniel.
- “I usually do Money Habitudes in the very first workshop. It’s a way I can get students talking about money and talking about their spending and loosen them up a bit to even be receptive. If I go in and I immediately start talking about needs and wants and budgets, they’ll just tell me they don’t have any money. If I do Money Habitudes with them, they’ve already admitted that they have money and they spend it.”
- “With Money Habitudes, students are learning something and they’re thinking about stuff, but it doesn’t feel like schoolwork.”
- “Money Habitudes helps me get students’ buy-in so they’re even receptive to making a budget or evaluating their spending.”
- “After we do Money Habitudes and people see their own spending habits, then we do a spending plan or budget. At that point, I know if I have a Planner or a Giver in the group; I know what their personalities are. We talk about how a budget only matters if you’re going to do it; it needs to work for you. So for people with a lot of Planning cards, I make them budget ‘free’ money. Or if I know they’re giving their kids everything they want, I’m going to really focus on gifts being ok in a budget, but knowing the number you can really afford.”
The Issue: How to cover finances in a series of relationship classes – but in a way that’s fun enough to feel like a date.
Who: Kylee Miller is a project manager at Marriage Matters Jackson, in Jackson, Michigan. The relationship education organization is housed at the United Way and was originally supported by a federal Healthy Marriages grant. It aims to strengthen marriages and families and decrease divorce.
What: Marriage Matters Jackson runs a variety of relationship education programs. Its major offering, “Five Great Dates,” is a five-week series of relationship classes for couples who are seriously dating or engaged.
- Marriage Matters Jackson holds its series of couples’ relationship classes weekly at different date-like locations throughout the city. “We go to venues where they can have their own table. We go to a different place each week so it really feels like you’re going out on dates,” says Miller.
- Each premarital class is two hours. The evening begins with an hour-long presentation by a speaker on a topic of importance to premarital couples. This is followed by a dessert or an appetizer break. Couples then have another hour or so by themselves to talk and work together on an activity.
- The goal of the relationship classes is make them seem more like date nights than workshops. By combining food, locations like restaurants, and a more interactive format, they are designed to be fun and upbeat. Attendees should not feel that they’re going to just another classroom.
- Couples pay $75 for all five relationship classes.
- The relationship classes cover topics like communication, goal setting, and finances. Money Habitudes cards are the foundation of the money class.
- Marriage Matters Jackson promotes its series of relationship classes in a variety of ways. One important way is to let people experience shorter, standalone workshops (including one using Money Habitudes) that are fun and non-threatening. “Getting attendees to show up has not always been easy, but once we proved to people that we’re not scary, we’re not going to make them do something that’s uncomfortable, they come to associate our name with something that’s safe, fun and entertaining,” says Miller.
- In the money class, the format is the same as the other relationship classes: an hour-long presentation on money and finances, a break for food, and then couples do the Money Habitudes activity together. Couples go over their results and read the interpretation cards together to understand their money personalities.
- “The goal of that night isn’t to make a budget. It’s to get the ball rolling so they they’re able to communicate better and learn more about each other,” says Miller.
- Some organizations that use Money Habitudes cards in classes want to encourage large, group discussion. However, Miller says that their relationship classes forego a group conversation in favor of couples learning to talk about money on their own.
- In many respects, the class is proactive. It helps couples establish a pattern and practice of having good conversations about money.
- “Finances are not easy for couples to talk about, but a simple card game makes it not so scary. And, from a facilitator’s standpoint, we don’t have to stand up in front of people and tell them, ‘You’re doing this wrong!’ or ‘You need to do this!’ The participants can come to those conclusions on their own. We want to keep things as light and fun as possible and this card game does that. That’s the beauty of the Money Habitudes cards.”
- “When you talk about finances, especially with the engaged couples who are in that la-la phase of venues, dresses and a wedding cake, it’s hard to bring up serious conversations about what the future is going to be like. What’s really nice about the Money Habitudes cards there is that it’s easy and it feels like a game, but you can have a conversation – and a serious conversation – about what your future is going to look like.”
The Issue: How to cover finances in relationship education classes. In addition, how to attract new people and increase attendance in relationship classes.
Who: Kylee Miller is a project manager at Marriage Matters Jackson, in Jackson, Michigan. The relationship education organization is housed at the United Way and was originally supported by a federal Healthy Marriages grant. It aims to strengthen marriages and families and decrease divorce.
What: Marriage Matters Jackson runs a variety of relationship education programs. Among these is a lunch class on Money Habitudes.
- The core of what Marriage Matters Jackson does is multi-week relationship classes. Their short, stand-alone sampler classes, serve to introduce people to the organization and get them involved in a fun, low-risk atmosphere.
- “The financial workshops we run are still geared to helping your relationship and the Money Habitudes cards are just wonderful for relationships,” says Miller.
- The hour-long midday relationship class is held at a downtown library. This is close to businesses, allowing people to attend on their lunch break.
- Marriage Matters Jackson promotes its classes via its Facebook page, direct mail postcards and through email blasts to its mailing list. The organization relies a lot on positive word of mouth advertising from people who have previously participated in its programs.
- When promoting the relationship class, they use this verbiage:
- Start great conversations about money and finances. Money is one of the most difficult subjects for people to discuss. As a fun and engaging conversation starter, Money Habitudes makes talking about money easy and approachable.
- The financial personality quiz aspect of the tool provides important insights about money issues.
- Couples can use the cards to understand where they complement and conflict with each others’ habits and attitudes, which gives them a strong foundation to talk about important financial issues
- Both individuals and couples (married, dating and engaged) attend the relationship class. Individuals who attend may be single or part of a couple.
- Although the grant requires that the class be free, Marriage Matters Jackson offers the option for people to buy lunch. (Attendees can also bring their own lunch.) “In our history, we have learned that if there isn’t a financial commitment, people aren’t as invested. So we charge if they want us to provide lunch for them,” says Miller. Lunches cost $7-10.
- Setting up, handing out lunch orders and getting people settled mean that the actual teaching time in the relationship class is more like 45 minutes than an hour.
- The lunch class starts with a short introduction and then an explanation about how to use the money management games. Attendees get about 15 minutes to sort their Money Habitudes cards. They then have a chance to use the interpretation cards to better understand their own money personality. The remainder of the class covers how one’s money personality manifests itself in one’s life, finances and relationship.
- Attendees get to keep their deck of Money Habitudes cards. They can go home and use the cards on their own or with a friend, spouse or partner. This helps people talk about money, spending habits, investing, etc. at home.
- The midday seminar serves as a feeder to Marriage Matters Jackson’s other relationship classes.
- “After that hour, we hope we’ve moved the bar in terms of their understanding of their financial lives. That’s the major goal, but we also want to keep them involved in what we’re doing and bring people back to another workshop and hope they tell their friends that they had a good time. That word-of-mouth marketing is so important. If someone has a good time doing the Money Habitudes workshop, they’ll tell their friends and they’ll spread the word about what we’re doing,” says Miller.
The Issue: How to include personal finances in a relationship skills curriculum that stresses fun, interactive activities that lead to people really understanding and changing their behaviors.
Who: Kara Shade is the Director of Adult Programs at Anthem Strong Families in Dallas, Texas.
What: Anthem Strong Families provides relationship education and life skills in the Dallas area. The organization focuses on vulnerable and at-risk populations including teens, single parents and low-income groups. Anthem Strong Families is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
- Anthem Strong Families serves couples, individuals and teens. It works with engaged and married couples and also does workforce development.
- It offers three levels of classes for individual adults (this may include singles, parents, etc. who are not attending in a “couples” context).
- The Level I class is a six-hour block that covers basic relationship skills. This includes some financial management and financial goal-setting. The cornerstone of this introductory level is Kelly Simpson’s Active Relationships Program.
- After completing Level I, participants can enroll in Level II classes. These include:
- “Strength Training” – What makes you a good parent; learning how to build on those strengths.
- “Anger Management” – Constructive ways to express anger.
- “Parenting Piece by Piece” – Understanding and managing parental stress.
- “Money Habitudes” – Money habits and attitudes.
- These Level II relationship skills classes are usually offered in pairs, typically for six hours on a Saturday. The series of relationship skills classes is offered monthly.
- Most attendees sign up for the relationship skills classes after being referred by partner groups. The partners may be other social service and non-profit organizations, Child Protective Services, etc. Many couples come to Anthem Strong Families through the Twogether in Texas program, the state’s healthy marriage initiative.
- In describing the finance class, Anthem Strong Families uses this language: “Nobody enjoys starting the money conversation. Come learn what your money personality is and how to discuss money with someone who has a different personality!”
- Money Habitudes classes usually have 10-20 participants.
- Anthem Strong Families takes a behavioral approach to relationship education and life skills. Participants look at their formative environment, attitudes and emotions as a component of making real behavior change. The classes are all interrelated; for example, the topic of “emotional triggers” will be discussed in the anger management class, the parenting class and the finance class. “There is so much overlap between the classes, it’s constantly reinforcing the basic principles all day long so people leave and feel a lot more confident that they understand their situation and have new tools to decide what they can do differently,” says Shade.
- The Money Habitudes activity occupies the majority of the 3-hour Level II finance class.
- The class begins with quick ice breakers and discussion about the money messages people receive. One quick ice breaker is to share “What would you say to money and what would money say to you, if it could talk?”
- After the facilitator asks the class some quick money personality questions and introduces the idea of different money personalities, each participant gets a deck of Money Habitudes cards and does the basic sorting activity. Students then get to see and interpret their own money personality.
- This then leads to group discussion about how people see and use money. Group discussion and sharing life experiences play a large role in all of Anthem Strong Families’ classes. The curriculum stresses activity and engagement over lectures.
- The goal of the Level II finance class is that students will have a sense of self-awareness about their finances and the financial habits and attitudes that underlie their financial behaviors. After that class, some students ask for and receive referrals to other resources and agencies that may be able to help them with specific financial issues.
- The Level III COATS Program is available to those who have completed Level I and II classes and meet additional pre-screening criteria. This program is geared toward workforce development and overcoming barriers to employment, including: criminal records, homelessness, addiction or substance abuse, etc. Anthem Strong Families’ Level III Program also offers TYRO Champion Training and Job Ethics Training, best practice programs from The Ridge Project. The Level III program provides ongoing case management to participants, as well as referrals and access to additional resources.
- Data from the last six months of finance classes shows:
- 77% of attendees felt “more confident” in making “decisions about family finances” after taking the class.
- 63% of attendees said they became more aware that their “spending habits affect their children.”
- “If something is an ingrained part of your personality, we want people to have a real understanding about it. You don’t just wake up and that’s the way you are; we’re looking at how people develop over time and how they form their beliefs and behaviors,” says Shade.
- Shade added, “We could write you a prescription and we can tell you ‘do this, do this and do this’ but unless you understand why you need to do it, and why it’s valuable to you, and what the benefits are of doing it another way, we find that people will probably just go back to the easy, default pattern they’ve established. We want to help people expand their thinking so they’re not stuck in the same old mentality.”
- “People come away from the finance class with a better understanding of themselves: of their money personality, of their spending habits, what their financial habits are, why they are the way they are with money and whether that will help them reach their goals,” Shade explained.
- “Everything we do is geared toward activities and group discussion; it’s not just someone standing in front of a room lecturing to you for six or eight hours. We try really hard to make sure that everything we do is interactive and hands-on. And we want it to be fun too. We know participants are giving up their time to be there and we want it to be an enjoyable experience. For us, Money Habitudes has been a really fun way to drive the points home and people get excited about it. People really get into it and it infuses energy and enthusiasm into the rest of the class. On the feedback forms for the finance classes, what we always get back is, ‘Loved the cards,’ ‘The cards were my favorite part,'” Shade noted.