Access Money Habitudes Online:

Talking About Money in a Youth Employment Program

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.
youth financial educationA 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.

An innovative peer teaching financial education program for kids

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.
utah state - peer teaching financial educationWhat: 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.

Money Mentors Learn About Financial Behaviors to Relate Better To Clients

United Way - money mentorsThe Issue: How to train money mentors to understand how they see money – and how their clients may see money differently. Improve financial coaching.
Who: Joanie Davis, Community Initiatives Director at United Way of Henry County and Martinsville.
What: The United Way of Henry County and Martinsville is part of the HOPE (Helping Others Progress Economically) Coalition. The asset building coalition includes financial institutions, government agencies, and civic and nonprofit organizations working to improve the economic self-sufficiency of low-income and low-wealth families and individuals. Rather than just financial assistance, participants take charge of their money and their lives through free personal financial management classes and financial coaching. Volunteers serve as money management mentors. The United Way also trains VITA volunteers to provide free tax preparation for low-income individuals and families to claim benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

  • The United Way’s money mentors work one-on-one with people seeking financial assistance.
  • Many of those who volunteer to be a financial coach come from related professions. This includes social workers, financial planners, etc. Many of the money mentors are able to use their financial coaching training in their regular jobs.
  • Money mentors attend a train-the-trainer style class once a week for 6 weeks. Each financial coaching class is 2 hours.
  • The financial coaching class mirrors the IDA (Individual Development Accounts) curriculum that the United Way offers. This includes modules on:
    • income versus expenses
    • banking basics
    • living on your own (for young adults)
    • managing income and expense over the long-term, with goal setting
    • debt reduction
    • investing  and your financial future
    • getting a loan
    • credit reports and scores
    • understanding yourself and your relationship with money (including Money Habitudes and True Colors)
  • Each money coach is also trained to use Money Habitudes. It is used as a money personality assessment and a money conversation starter. Money mentors receive a guide and decks of cards to use with clients.
  • As a learning tool, doing the Money Habitudes activity helps a money coach understand his or her own money personality. As the money mentors better understand how they see money themselves, it helps them work better with clients by:
    • Being less judgmental.
    • Being more sympathetic and understanding.
    • Tailoring advice so it is best suited to someone with a different view of money.
  • A money coach can also choose to use Money Habitudes as an ice breaker or assessment tool when working with clients.
  • The financial coaching program helps transition some of the United Way’s clients from free tax preparation services to more holistic and individualized financial help. Beyond tax prep and the money coach program, the United Way offers:


  • “It’s been a good fit for us. It seems like people are more receptive to our other financial education materials after we do Money Habitudes. It’s been very positive for us.”
  • “I saw the cards at a conference and it clicked with me. I thought, ‘We can talk about the relationship with money and assess their personality – their habits, attitudes and behaviors about money – and that’s how we can get them to change.’ At first, I was thinking we’d just focus on numbers like their income and expenses. I thought there had to be something else. And Money Habitudes was that tool.”
  • “It’s a good ice breaker activity that can get people thinking about money and open up their minds, to say, ‘Ok, maybe I do need to do a budget. Maybe I am spending too spontaneously.’ For me, it was a real eye-opener.”

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 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 the course of a school year.

  • The program includes youth, 14-18, with their parents in regular financial literacy classes. Classes meet 6-8pm 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 own 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.
  • A key outcome is for the youth to open a savings account early on in the program and add to it with incentive money for attendance and homework completion. Washington says, “Research shows that youth with bank accounts in their own name are more likely to attend college. We want them to be successful in all areas of their lives and to develop early savings habits and positive money management skills and behaviors.”
  • Youth and their parents are also encouraged to become North Carolina Savers by signing up 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 parents and kids to start with how we’re influenced around money. 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.”

Financial Capability in a Life Skills Program: Foster Kids Transitioning out of Foster Care

Ready by 21 foster care financial capability programThe Issue: How to better prepare foster kids transitioning out of the foster care system; this includes financial capability , among other life skills modules.
Who: Meghann Shutt, program manager for financial security at Baltimore CASH Campaign. The organization received a grant to participate in Maryland’s Ready by 21 program for foster kids.
What: Geared for foster youth ageing out of the foster care system, Ready by 21 teaches life skills for independent living. Each year, the two-week program teaches five groups of 20 foster kids. Most are 17-19 years old. The effort involves the Governor’s Office for Children, Department of Human Resources, Department of Juvenile Services, Department of Education and the Workforce Investment Board. A program goal is for all youth to be financially literate. Financial education classes dovetail with students’ choice of: pursuing an associate’s and bachelor’s degree; enrolling in job training programs; or direct job placement. Students receive a stipend as part of the life skills program.

  • The financial education component of Ready by 21 is three 90-minute classes: Pump Up Your Piggybank, You Can Bank On It, and Rock Your Credit Score.
  • The first financial class starts with an introduction and a pre-test on financial knowledge. It then moves to a financial habits and values module.
    • Students do a word association exercise using money, wealth, debt, etc.
    • They then do the Money Habitudes card sorting activity. This leads to a group discussion about where money personalities come from and how one’s Money Habitudes mix might help or hurt one’s financial future. There is also discussion about why knowing your own unique money personality type matters.
    • Students then talk about SMART goal setting.
    • The class concludes by talking about building wealth, doing a budget and setting goals.
    • Homework is to track spending for 30 days and relate it to the budget, money personality and goals.
  • Each student has his or her own deck of Money Habitudes cards. Rather than enforcing silence, students can talk and laugh.
  • Shutt allows about 30 minutes to sort the cards – a bit longer than other groups that might be faster readers. Students then read the interpretation cards to get a sense of their money personality. They learn how their spending and saving tendencies affect their lives.
    • So what do you think?
    • Is anyone comfortable sharing the cards you got?
    • Do you think the cards describe you?
    • Did any of the statements really sound like you?
    • Do you see how your different Money Habitudes tendencies work together or work against each other?
  • It may take a moment for people to open up. “I don’t jump in to fill the silence after asking for people to share. A mistake a lot of facilitators make is they want to fill the silence too quickly,” Shutt says. “It’s so surprising how much people really love to share.”
  • Students keep their Money Habitudes results in mind when tackling issues like budgets and banking and credit in the next classes.
  • Other activities used in the context of doing Money Habitudes may be:
    • A discussion about sharing “your first money memory.”
    • Two teams each get big pieces of paper to brainstorm. One group generates ideas to increase their income; the other group brainstorms ideas to save money. “If the ideas are coming from the people themselves, they’re going to be ideas that make a lot more sense than if they’re ideas coming from me,” says Shutt.


  • “The cards send a signal that this isn’t your regular high school class. It’s going to be fun, they’re going to participate and learn about themselves,” says Shutt.
  • “Because we don’t have a way to talk about money and think about money because it’s so taboo, that’s where the cards really come in. The cards really help people along the path of becoming the expert in their own lives. They’re saying, ‘Maybe I don’t really know how I am with money because no one’s ever asked me. Or I’ve never talked about it with anybody. Or I just don’t have a structure for thinking about it.’ The cards are a really nice jumping off point because they’re a way people can have more information about who they are and how they act with money. Then, when they’re hearing that information for the next three workshops, they have a way of saying, for example, ‘Oh, maybe a savings bond would be good for me because I know I’m more of a spontaneous spender.'”
  • “Kids have so little choice over what’s going on in their lives. It’s fun to say, ‘You’re the expert on you. So we’re going to honor that and you can sort these cards however it makes sense for you. And you can have more information about yourself so when we give you this information, you’re going to know which of these choices is going to be best for you.’ Nobody likes to be told what to do. The cards make people more open and receptive.”
  • “I have them do the card sort and they get excited about it. The cards are so fun and everybody loves hearing about themselves. One girl said, ‘Oh, do these cards know who I am?!’ People will also ask if they can keep them. I think it just immediately warms them to what’s coming next.”
  • “I use the cards as a way to encourage the students to think critically about which option will work for them, acknowledging that not every strategy is right for everybody. We use the cards as a way to open the window so people can see better who they are and how they act with money so that when they’re choosing strategies and tools for reaching whatever their financial goals are, they’re doing it with a mindset of, ‘Well, let me be real with myself about what’s going to work for me and what won’t.'”
  • “Education alone doesn’t get people to change their behaviors. Education plus the behavioral piece and engaging people around their behaviors and how they incorporate this new information into changes, that’s really where I think there’s a possibility for change.”

Financial Education for Supportive Housing and Transitional Housing Programs

financial education for homebuyersThe issue: How to build trust with supportive housing and transitional housing clients and help them better understand their spending habits; how to make positive behavior changes. Make financial education classes more engaging and relevant – especially because they aren’t mandatory for supportive and transitional housing clients.
Who: Donna Stallings, Case Manager and VIDA Coordinator at Virginia Supportive Housing.
What:Virginia Supportive Housing is a non-profit housing agency. It provides permanent supportive housing to homeless single adults (SRO) and families, including those graduating from homeless shelters and transitional housing. VSH provides integrated support services, notably a financial education curriculum for homebuyers and homelessness transition. VSH also teaches financial literacy workshops and provides financial counseling. Funding has come from private foundations, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, HUD and SAMSHA among others.
Who: Virginia Supportive Housing operates in and around the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Charlottesville, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Norfolk. The non-profit focuses on homeless individuals and families. Clients are low-to-moderate income (LMI); many have incomes below 30 percent of median income. Other challenges include substance abuse, mental illness and physical disabilities.

  • Supportive housing and transitional housing clients are offered a series of financial education classes. VSH uses its own financial literacy curriculum, which includes Money Habitudes. Classes are optional for VSH residents. Although students get a supermarket gift card for attending all the classes, the financial literacy classes must still be enjoyable and appeal to them.
  • The financial literacy curriculum is a series of four 2-hour classes. The financial classes are: (1) Core Values and Beliefs About Money, featuring Money Habitudes (2) Budgeting and Money Management (3) Understanding Credit, Reading Credit Scores and Credit Reports; Credit Repair (4) Banking and Saving, including opening a bank account for those who are unbanked.
  • VSH also offers standalone financial literacy workshops and financial counseling for individuals and couples. VSH teaches classes for a women’s shelter, a Salvation Army men’s shelter, a homelessness transitional shelter for veterans, and foster kids.
  • Typical classes are 10-20 students.
  • The entire Core Beliefs class is based on the Money Habitudes exercise. After an introduction, each student sorts a deck of cards. Because of low literacy levels, Stallings allows 30-45 minutes for students to do the solitaire sorting process. She sometimes reads cards to those who can’t read.
  • About an hour of the class is devoted to the money personality self-interpretation and group discussion. “There’s always somebody who will volunteer and share. And they’ll say, ‘This was really me! And I didn’t even realize it!'” says Stallings.


  • It’s fun and active – versus boring, static lectures or PowerPoint presentations. “Even for me, personally, if I take a class and all the teacher does is stand up and lecture, they’re going to lose me in about 15 minutes. Classroom environments need to be interactive and engaging. Just sitting there is difficult,” says Stallings.
  • The activity makes for a better environment for a teacher. “If I’m coming to them, just off the street, talking about budgeting, they’re like, ‘Who is this woman and why should I talk to her?’ Money Habitudes is a different approach that’s fun and meaningful,” says Stallings.
  • It’s engaging but also empowering. “Money Habitudes is a much friendlier, non-judgmental way for people to get at their core issues. That’s why it’s more successful than what we did before having the Money Habitudes cards. Now they’re sorting the cards themselves; they’re saying this about themselves. It’s not me sitting there and pointing a finger saying, ‘You do this! And you do this! You need to do this! And you need to do this!’ It’s not like that. It’s ‘this is just how you are and here are some things you can do if you want to be more successful in managing your money.’ It’s the cards that are telling them, based on how they responded to the statements,” says Stallings.
  • It builds trust. “The Money Habitudes exercise doesn’t just get the students to trust me, but it does something with the camaraderie in the room because everybody’s wall comes down. You’d be surprised how much they tell about themselves. And I don’t encourage them; this is what they do on their own. It’s because they’ve become comfortable and relaxed on their own because the game is done in a lighthearted, fun way.”
  • It helps people like the idea of budgeting. “When you do the cards, it lets people see what their money personality is and why they’ve done things the way that they have. And they realize that the way they’ve been managing their money hasn’t been working for them. So they’re then open and excited to seeing how a budget can help them do better. They come into the second session on budgeting with a different attitude versus if we had started with that class. Because they’ve found out what their personality type is, now they want to see how they can fit that into a budget to make their financial picture better,” says Stallings.


  • 90 percent of VSH’s residents do not return to homelessness.
  • VSH claims that the local community bears $9,500 to $13,500 per person to provide temporary housing; the organization provides housing for approximately $4,500, saving the public up to $9,000 per individual.

Observations and Comments:

  • “Money Habitudes is not punitive, whereas some people see budgets as punitive, negative and restrictive, like, ‘This is going to keep me from doing what I want to do!’ So they don’t want to do it. But the cards give you a different way to present financial challenges,” says Stallings.
  • “By doing the cards, it hits at the issues, but it does it in a fun way so now they don’t dread this person coming and talking to them about money because, first, ‘she made it fun’ and, second, ‘she helped me deal with some stuff,’ and third, ‘now I can trust her.’ The trust lead-in is definitely so important. If you just walk into a group that doesn’t know you and trust you and try to talk about money and budgeting, you’ll get a stonewall.”
  • “If people know why they do what they do, it makes it easier to change – or to at least not get frustrated when certain things keep happening over and over again because they know why they’re doing it.”

Financial Life Skills for Teen Parents

Catholic Charities teaching life skillsThe Issue: How to get single teen parents to better understand money messages and financial wants and needs in an engaging atmosphere.
Who: Rebecca Phipps, LPC, professional counselor and coordinator of the Between Us program at Catholic Charities Oregon. It operates under the national Healthy Marriage Initiative.
What: Phipps teaches life skills and financial literacy mainly to single teen mothers as well as some single teen fathers. She also teaches engaged and married couples and parents of teens in addition to some private counseling. Phipps teaches at public high schools, maternity homes and early college high schools. The teen program focuses on:

  • Maturity Issues, What I Value
  • Infatuation and Attraction
  • Communication Between You and Me
  • What’s Love?
  • Peer Pressure: More Subtle than You Think
  • Safe Relationships/Cycle of Abuse
  • Basic Banking


  • Phipps uses Money Habitudes cards with teens, adults and young mothers when she covers communication, messaging, values and money.
  • She starts by introducing students to general messages they get from the media – largely by showing magazine advertisements – and discussing what they mean and how we internalize them.
  • After this introductory exercise, she next has each participant sort his or her own deck of Money Habitudes cards. After having everyone go through the money personality self-analysis step, she includes some group discussion about the results.
  • She devotes about 20 minutes of the life skills class to doing the financial card sorting activity. Classes are 1-2 hours, depending on the venue.
  • Phipps uses her own handout for the exercise. It asks participants how many cards they identified with in each Money Habitudes category and asks additional questions such as, “What Money Habitudes types show up when you’re feeling anxiety?”
  • This leads to a discussion about what money messages we received growing up and what money messages we will give our children – consciously or unconsciously. “It’s really good because it gets them to ask, ‘What am I actually teaching my child? What are my Money Habitudes and what are the messages I’m sending to my child about handling money? And what do I need to look at for myself?'” says Phipps.
  • Later in the class, she uses large sheets of paper to gather ideas from the group on wants-versus-needs and myths and facts about credit. “Wants and needs is really huge for a new parent. And the class really makes them think about it, and they start to share about it,” says Phipps.
  • With longer classes, the section on values and money messages transitions to budgeting. Phipps uses a special budget worksheet geared for teen mothers. For example, it includes income categories for TANF, SNAP food stamps, etc. The budget also highlights expenses that teens may not be aware of because they have not yet lived on their own. These may include costs like doing laundry.
  • To continue the money values discussion, Phipps also uses an activity she calls Vbay, a values auction. Students get to bid on items like higher education while sacrificing other items like manicures with limited dollars.


  • To get teens and adults involved and interested in the class. “Me, personally, I like activities so I always introduce them into whatever I’m doing. I’ve seen it done and because they engage people, they remember,” says Phipps.
  • As a way to make the discussion about financial wants and needs more personally relevant. “What happens is that they may already know they’re Spontaneous and they start thinking, ‘I need to make changes! I can’t just get a manicure!’ But if you only have a hundred dollars, you see how you need to buy diapers and something else, you can’t buy everything you want. In that session, they realize that life’s different now,” says Phipps.
  • Unlike other financial education exercises, Money Habitudes is nonjudgmental. “I like the classification of the Money Habitudes cards. I think it helps people see the positives and the challenges, to think, ‘I’m not bad and I’m not good; I just have to think about it.’ It gets them involved because they’re looking at themselves as they’re doing the cards; they’re  doing some good self-examination. It’s like a mirror that shows someone what they’re like and they say, “I am really like that. Yeah, I am,'” says Phipps.

Community College Money Management Classes: Teaching Personal Finance

Who: Leslie Tomlinson with Student Support Services at Northwest-Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
community colelge financial education classesWhat: As part of the college’s Student Support Services grant through the US Department of Education’s TRIO program, the program must offer a variety of seminars to all recipients. One of these requirements is personal economic literacy.
Who: Located on the outskirts of Appalachia, Northwest-Shoals Community College’s students are a mixture of returning adult students and students of traditional age who aren’t going directly to a four-year institution. Some 70-80% of the community college’s students qualify for federal assistance (i.e., Pell Grants) and many are the first in their families to go to college. As a result, much of the student body is considered “at risk” for not finishing their degree. The mandate of the school’s Student Support Services Program is to assist students with course selection, academic tutoring, academic advising, financial aid and personal economic literacy education to ensure they get through school.

  • Money management classes are generally comprised of one or two dozen students at desks or tables.
  • Total class time is approximately one hour.
  • The money management classes start with an introduction to personal finance and then students identify a spending vice – such as buying a coffee every day – and then multiply the cost per week, month, year to understand the effect of small changes in spending.
  • About 15 minutes into the class, students use the Money Habitudes cards. This serves to invigorate the audience because of the fun, hands-on nature of the exercise. The cards dovetail with the introductory spending exercise by helping students understand their own financial habits and attitudes and letting them talk about money. The class uses the Money Habitudes II cards, commonly used in universities and community colleges.
  • Depending on the degree of conversation, the class usually includes about 30 minutes for the Money Habitudes exercise. An introduction of the cards is followed by the solitaire sorting process then the money personality self-interpretation step. Following the financial conversation starter, there is then 15-30 minutes of group discussion.

Although offering the personal finance class is a grant requirement, the Money Habitudes cards are used for three ends:

  • Make the SSS staff and its offerings approachable and non-threatening. “People don’t want to feel judged. So you want a very non-intimating, easy way to talk about money,” says Tomlinson. It’s important that students feel comfortable in their interactions with the staff because the goal is to continue to help students in a variety of ways. In addition to financial aid and personal economic education, they want students to seek them out for academic support, scheduling, advising and curriculum planning.
  • Make financial education personally relevant and interesting. To this end, a discussion of one’s money personality and habits and attitudes can put spending and savings decisions in context. This might be whether to buy a new or used car – and what one really needs versus what one wants. “We want them to think before they spend their Pell Grant award and take out the maximum allowed on their student loans,” says Tomlinson.
  • Foster a bond between students; an ice breaker and conversation starter that goes beyond finances. “Because we are a commuter college, we want students to connect with each other and sometimes it’s very difficult to do that; they come in, they go to class, they leave. And so we like for them to talk with each other and get to know each other and make a bond.”

Observations and Comments:

  • We loved them! Because it’s engaging. It’s active learning. It’s participatory. It’s not just us talking to them or at them – it actually engages them in the process. And it’s fun.
  • We like to get the students to talk and we’ve found that these cards will promote discussion.
  • It’s really hard to find interactive things that are financial in scope but which aren’t  scary. Other activities make it seem like, “You’re doing everything wrong!” We always try to accentuate the positive with our students, and encourage them to make positive choices when it comes to their education and their money.  Playing solitaire with the Money Habitudes cards allows us to do just that.

Money Habitudes in Catholic School Classes

Where: Immaculate Heart Academy, a Catholic college prep high school in Washington, NJ
What: Piloted Money Habitudes cards in psychology and finance classes

  • Stephanie Licata, campus minister
  • Mary Liz Fuhrman, guidance counselor and psychology teacher
  • Students: primarily seniors

Why: In the psychology class the cards kicked off a unit on stress. In the finance class this activity was the introduction to personal finance.
How: Each class devoted an hour period to the cards.

  • The exercise began with a brief introduction about the role of one’s habits and attitudes related to money relative to spending, saving and lifestyle and was tied into the current classroom topic.
  • Each student was given a deck of Money Habitudes for Teens cards and took about ten minutes to read and sort the cards using the Money Habitudes Solitaire activity.
  • Students then read the interpretation cards in each deck, with the teacher prompting them to identify which of the advantages and disadvantages were most applicable to them.
  • Students were asked to choose a next-step from the list of suggestions specific to their most dominant Habitudes and then work on it over the following week. Total discussion lasted about 20 minutes.


  • Typical teen concerns came up quite naturally in the discussion including getting a car, saving for college, incurring student loans and the everyday costs of being a teenager, from dating to hanging out with friends. Since the prom was coming up, the financial choices related to that event were also discussed.
  • Many students shared that they were going to talk to somebody in order to create a boundary, exchange information or let someone know how they’re feeling. Examples included comments such as: I’m going to tell my friends that I’m not going out on Friday night or I’m going to tell my friends that I’d love to go out on Friday night but if we can find something that’s less expensive, that would be great.
  • On the written evaluations common themes emerged as many students noted:
    • They saw themselves as too generous and at times felt that they were being taken advantage of.
    • They realized they used money to curry favor with others or smooth over relationships.
    • They were holding on to money so tightly that they were missing opportunities and sacrificing chances to have fun and enjoy being with their friends.

Stephanie Licata:

  • Using the cards was definitely centered on self-reflection and evaluation, but as certain commonalities arose within the group, they would relate to each other. There were people who had similar stories or similar points of view so it easily evolved into a conversation with the group.
  • The kids were totally engaged the whole time. Teenagers want to talk about themselves if you let them so this is perfect for them.
  • As teachers, we’re constantly being challenged to come up with activities like this that are interactive, that keep kids engaged and spark conversations. And the cards were so easy to work with it.

Mary Liz Furhman:

  • The best part was that there was no right or wrong or a better category and everything had its pros and cons. It was really an assessment of where do you want to be. I liked that because they’re so used to wanting to be right, to have the right answer in school, to please someone else; this is less about that and more about their own situations.
  • Money is such a form of stress – especially for these kids going off to college. They’re really going to be independent – they’re going to have to take care of their finances to some extent, many of them have jobs –so the Money Habitudes activity was really relevant to where they were in their lives.

Teaching Financial Literacy Classes to Teens and Senior Citizens

cornell extension financial literacy classesTeaching financial literacy classes can be difficult. Talking about money intimates people and they often wait until hardship strikes before seeking help. Therefore, financial educator Nancy Reigelsperger knows she needs to make her financial literacy classes not only practical, but non-threatening and enjoyable as well. It’s especially important to hook younger people, but working with adults also requires that the financial literacy classes grab their attention.
As an educator with Cornell University Cooperative Extension, Nancy Reigelsperger traverses her upstate New York territory offering:

One constant among the diverse groups is that people want to be better with their finances, but are slow to make helpful changes.
“There are a lot of people out there who need this information, but they don’t believe that. So they only come in when they’re in crisis mode,” says Reigelsperger.
Adults who attend her financial literacy classes say that they wished they’d had more financial education earlier in life. Those skills would have helped them avoid losing their homes, racking up credit card debt or declaring bankruptcy.
“They’ll say to me, ‘Nobody ever talked to me about finances. Nobody ever showed me that.’ We hear that a lot,” she says.

Financial literacy classes for teens

It is, therefore, not surprising that Reigelsperger believes so strongly in educating young people about personal finance. Although the New York school system leaves little time for life skills, teachers ask Reigelsperger to do financial in-services for their students. These teachers know what Reigelsperger knows: people hope that kids get solid financial advice at home, but the reality is that either parents don’t have time, don’t make time or don’t know how to deal with finances in a healthy way themselves.
“It’s living skills and teens really need this,” says Reigelsperger.
For these financial literacy classes, she often uses Money Habitudes for Teens cards, saying they’re a “perfect fit.” The cards engage the students and make what follows more relevant and personal. Getting through to this demographic is important, but not easy. “Teenagers think they know it all and it’s not really a priority for them. They’d rather be on their iPods or cell phones than listening to this lady talking about money!” she says.
“That is my opening thing: to do the Teen Habitudes, kind of hooking them because [the cards convey] ‘This isn’t going to be so horribly boring! We’re going to do something fun and we’re going to figure ourselves out.’”
“She teaches stand-alone classes on specific financial topics – using credit, making a budget, tracking expenses – as well as multi-class series. One particular high school business teacher has Reigelsperger return every year to do the cards with her juniors and seniors to get them acclimated to finances. “She loves them,” says Reigelsperger. At another high school where she teaches a six-week course on various facets of money management, she devotes her entire first class to Money Habitudes.

Financial literacy classes for adults

The standard adult financial education class that Reigelsperger offers is called Making Ends Meet, which she’s taught hundreds of times. It covers basic budgeting, building a spending plan, cash tracking and goal setting. She begins the class with 20-30 minutes using Money Habitudes. The cards jumpstart the financial education class because they’re hands-on, they build awareness and they reaffirm for people what they know to be true about their money habits and attitudes, which builds credibility for the rest of the session.
“It takes a little bit of time to do that so it really does bite into my two hours of trying to teach them a lot of core topics, but I think it’s important enough that people take a look at themselves and see what their spending habits are,” says Reigelsperger.
She had always tried to get her students to open up and feel comfortable talking before diving into the class. She’d ask questions like: Why do couples argue about finances? Why does someone stay in a terrible job or relationship? However, the resultant discussion was disappointing.
“This was a piece of the puzzle, of the curriculum, that I feel was ignored,” she says. “Money is a really deep issue. It’s a scary topic for people. It’s a stressful topic. It’s a very private topic. And people don’t like to share that they’re struggling or having problems. So it’s like, ‘Let’s break the ice here and let’s see where we’re going with this.’ It’s like getting people on the bandwagon. I have just found Money Habitudes to be a really great piece.”

Tailoring financial literacy classes for the audience

The cards improve the student experience, but they also help the instructor.
“It’s an eye-opening thing for me so I can kind of see where people are coming from,” says Reigelsperger.
To this end, she recalls tweaking her message for a monthly welfare-to-work job readiness class she teaches. When one of the students sorted the Money Habitudes cards, he found that he agreed with nearly every one of the nine statements for one of the Habitudes categories.
“This guy calls to me and he says, ‘Hey, come here and look at my cards! Look at this: I’ve got eight Status cards!’ He was so proud that he had eight Status cards. He thought that was great. And, as I looked at him, he was a walking billboard for every brand name going,” says Reigelsperger who remembers him sporting a Ralph Lauren shirt, Calvin Klein jeans, Nike Air sneakers and a cap with a sports team’s logo. “It was no surprise to me that he had eight Status cards.”
As the motto for the Status Habitude says, he saw money as a way to present a positive image. And while having some cards in any Habitude category is not, in itself, a red flag, Reigelsperger knew that having ,so many in one category was a good starting point for a discussion about priorities and balance. Of course, to change one’s habits, it’s beneficial to not only understand what one is doing that’s helping or hurting and why those habits exist, but to also buy in to that assessment.
People find it less threatening to sort through nonjudgmental statement cards rather than simply make a budget or fill out a test-like worksheet. And it’s not uncommon for people to do a budget in good faith but not properly estimate how much they spend on clothing, food, entertainment, gifts, or the plethora of smaller purchases that add up. Because the student felt comfortable revealing his spending habits, Reigelsperger was able to better adapt her message to her audience.
“I didn’t change my core information, but it kind of changed my examples and understanding,”she says.

Structuring financial literacy classes

Reigelsperger’s financial literacy classes usually have six to twelve people, but may be as large as 30. She finds little difference in using the cards with bigger groups except that some people may read through the 54 statement cards slightly faster than others. To keep the class together, she may walk around, discuss some of the cards with those who finish quickly or give them instructions to take the next step. She may also have them look through one of the handouts and record how many cards of each Habitude they had.
When working with the cards, Reigelsperger uses a few of the handouts from the Professional’s Guide so attendees have something to take home with them. She also uses the short biographical vignettes in the guide. These illustrate how different Habitude combinations affect the way people spend and save and where financial agreements and disagreements may arise between people.
“If you were doing nothing but the Habitudes cards and the whole exercise was on that, you could really go deep with it,” says Reigelsperger, who often gets requests from people who want to take the cards home so they can do them in greater depth with someone else. At the very least, she believes that doing the cards – if only for 20 minutes – prompts people to think more about how they relate to money, gives them personal motivation and opens the door to more constructive discussions about finances. In addition to Money Habitudes, Reigelsperger also employs Advantage Publishing’s calculators – typically the Paycheck Power Booster and the Credit Card Smarts products – because both tools are “eye-opening.”
“It’s such dry material, but the cards get people to say, ‘Oh, maybe this can be fun!’ I need to hook them,” says Reigelsperger. “A lot of the times, the feedback that I get from the evaluations will say, ‘Liked the Habitudes cards!’ or ‘Liked the card game!’ It’s definitely a good exercise.”