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Financial Opportunity Centers: dialogue with financial coaches, clients & funders

financial opportunity centersThe 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.”

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.

Making financial classes for women more engaging

The Issue: How to make financial classes for women more engaging and welcoming while providing valuable skills for handling money.
financial classes for womenWho: 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.

  • Adams teaches risk management over 6 weeks using the Annie’s Project curriculum. The financial classes for women are held once a week for 6 weeks. Each evening class is three hours and participants enjoy a catered dinner together (to build camaraderie and because many participants come straight from work). Classes have about 15 people.
  • Participants pay a nominal fee of about $65 to participate. The program has gotten grant money from the North Central Risk Management Education Center and sponsorship from Farm Credit to defray costs.

    annies project - financial classes for women
    A group of participants from Annie’s Project, financial classes for women.
  • The 6 weeks of Annie’s Project covers risk management as it relates to Production, Marketing, Legal, Institutional, Financial and Human Resources.
  • Moving Beyond the Basics – Farm Financial Education for Women is a supplemental program that focuses on finances and recordkeeping. Adams teaches this course as six sessions as well. Classes are held in the evening and dinner is provided. Ideally, those who participate in the supplemental financial classes for women have already taken the core Annie’s Project classes, but this isn’t required.
  • The very first topic in the Moving Beyond the Basics series is financial habits and attitudes. This is taught using Money Habitudes cards. The module lasts about an hour.
  • Each participant gets a deck of Money Habitudes cards to sort. Then participants are able to interpret their own money personality results. Next, participants break up into groups based on their dominant Money Habitudes types (so people with the same money personality work together) and answer group questions.
  • The recommendation to use Money Habitudes came from Tim Eggers and Kristin Schulte with ISU Extension.
  • Money Habitudes plays an important role in the financial classes for women. The cards:
    • Make for a fun, engaging and hands-on first activity to get participants involved in the classes.
    • Break down the wall to talking about finances.
    • Create conversation between participants, to make them accustomed to sharing and talking with each other.
    • Help participants understand their own financial habits and attitudes.
    • Allow women to gain insight into how to talk about money and farm finances with other people – often other family members involved in the business. As Adams says, “Most of these women are not alone on their farm and there’s somebody else who probably thinks about money in a different way in that operation.”
  • 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.”

An adult continuing education financial program for auctioneers

The Issue: How to add interesting, engaging content to a continuing education financial program.
wvu extensionWho: 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.”

Financial education classes and train-the-trainer for financial educators

The Issue: How to lay a foundation for financial skills by getting students to understand the role of habits, attitudes, emotions and behaviors in their own personal finances.
financial education classes and train-the-trainerWho: Saundra Davis is the executive director and founder of Sage Financial Solutions, an organization dedicated to helping communities develop financial education classes and programs. She is a nationally recognized expert in the financial coaching field and is a co-founder of Earned Asset Resource Network’s (EARN) work in financial coaching and planning.
What: Community financial education classes and train-the-trainer programs for financial educators.

  • For years, Davis has covered financial habits and attitudes in her classes.  “I was already doing a lot of work about emotions and behaviors and the cards just made it easier,” she says. She usually starts her financial education classes with the Money Habitudes exercise.
  • To do a complete class based on Money Habitudes and doing the card sort, interpretation, and discussion, Davis allows an hour.
  • After covering the emotions and behaviors component with Money Habitudes, Davis moves on to the “nuts and bolts” – concrete financial skill building topics. “I make sure that before they leave, they have both the ‘why they do what they do’ and then ‘how to do what they say they want to do,'” she says.
  • As a framework for using the cards in financial education classes, Davis recommends thinking through these questions:
    • What is your reason for using the cards? What impact do you want the cards to have on participants?
    • How will you use the cards: individual, small groups?
    • How will you capture the “take-away” insights from the the Money Habitudes cards?
    • What is your “call to action” after doing the activity?
  • Her classes and trainings also use her own materials, those from Ted Klontz and Swanson Group’s value cards.
  • As part of the financial habits and behaviors class, Davis may break the class into small groups and have them discuss their earliest money messages. She may also give them a circumstance like getting a $5000 tax return and ask them to talk about it.
  • Davis teaches teens and adults and works with end-user clients as well as other financial coaches and educators. The train-the-trainer classes vary little with the different audiences because Davis insists that financial educators do the same exercises they’d ask their own clients and students to do. (Among other groups, Davis is a trainer with NeighborWorks.) Rather than train financial educators on theory, she walks them through the activities, including Money Habitudes. “If anything I’m trying to take their expertise down a notch,” says Davis about the challenge of having very knowledgeable educators who may have a hard time making lessons relevant and understandable.
  • In fact, even those with a lot of financial expertise who self-identify as being “good with money” often come away with new insights. “What happens when you use the cards is that people who think they have their act together are also coming face to face with the parts of their own financial lives that they don’t like. So this gives them an opportunity to face their own financial fears,” says Davis. When she was working with a CPA, she recalls, “He said, ‘Wow, I really understand now why my wife gets really unhappy with me!’ He’s so focused on Planning and Security that he doesn’t have enough fun. And, in his mind, taking care of her is getting the money in order. In her mind, taking care of her is spending time with her. It’s really a unique opportunity for people in relationships to see where they differ around money.”
  • The cards tend to be a good assessment of how people see money. “Every once in a while I get someone who does the cards and says, ‘This doesn’t resonate with me.’ I’ve done the cards with more than 1000 people, maybe 2000 or 3000, and I’ve had maybe one person who didn’t agree with the card sort results,” she says.
  • Part of Davis’s success comes from her belief in creating a safe space to discuss the difficult topic of money. To do this, she insists that everyone in the financial education classes participate; there are no passive observers. She also shares examples from her own life. And when teaching a class with different age groups, she makes sure people have an age-appropriate version of Money Habitudes.
  • Because people get excited to start playing with the hands-on cards, Davis is careful to give very specific instructions about how to use them.
  • Davis prefers to give a new deck to all participants and to let them take the deck home. Her hope is that they will do the fun exercise with a spouse, friend or relative. “I tell them not to go and say to someone, ‘Hey, you need to do this!’ I’ll coach them about the process and give them some conversation starters for when they go home and encourage them to do it with their friends. People complain about money all the time, so why not start having productive conversations about money?”
  • Once the class has moved on to other topics, Davis refers back to the financial habits and attitudes that students discovered in the Money Habitudes module.


  • “People know that what they’re doing isn’t working. They just don’t know what else to do. People know they need to include habits, behaviors and emotions, but they don’t know how,” says Davis.
  • “Everything comes back to the budget. It doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll still cover that. You will absolutely do a budget when you’re helping people – I just don’t lead with it. When I say, ‘Let’s do a budget,” who on earth is excited by that? The Money Habitudes cards give me an introduction into a financial conversation that’s non-threatening and even kind of fun – there’s always laughter – it’s just really valuable.”
  • “Once people use the Money Habitudes cards, they get it. But, I do think it’s hard for people to get it before they use it. It’s like coaching. Talking about coaching is not the same as actually getting coached by a great coach.”

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.”

Credit Union Training on Financial Behaviors, Emotions and Attitudes

HOPE Coalition - credit union trainingThe Issue: How to train financial services professionals to easily understand the emotional and behavioral side of finance to better relate to financial clients.
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. The United Way used Money Habitudes to do professional development workshops for its credit union partner. The United Way trained the credit union’s employees to better understand how habits, attitudes, values and emotions play into financial decision-making – and how to better relate to and serve clients.

  • The United Way facilitated “lunch and learn” workshops for the credit union’s employees at all of its branches. The credit union training was mandatory for employees.
  • Hour-long classes were based on doing and discussing the Money Habitudes activity to determine each employee’s own money personality type.
  • The credit union wanted to provide training that was new and out of the box. Most credit union training revolves around understanding technical concepts and numbers. However, this session was about understanding people. Being able to introduce emotions, behaviors, attitudes and money personality was new.
  • The goal of the workshops was to get the credit union employees to better understand how they see and relate to money in order to understand and relate better to the credit union’s customers. Ultimately, the workshops were designed to help the credit union employees improve member relationships.
  • “Financial professionals can dismiss clients because they’re different from you and you don’t understand them. Beyond just doing the cards and saying, ‘These are my Habitudes and you’re different from me,’ it’s a step further. It’s asking, ‘How does this affect my job? How do people respond to me? Do they think I’m judgmental? Is that why they don’t want to do business with me?'” says Davis.
  • Discussion raised questions such as: If you are a teller and have a dominant Planning Habitude and you’re dealing with a customer with a dominant Spontaneous Habitude, do you feel defensive? Does it lead to talking differently or interacting differently? How would you recommend financial products or services that would be a fit for that customer? “Learning about yourself as a financial professional and how you see money, you can get rid of the disconnect with the person you’re working with and open up the lines of communication and become more effective,” says Davis.
  • Davis made a chart of all the credit union employees’ dominant Habitudes. As so many of the employees had similar money personalities, it opened up discussions about how employees often saw and reacted to money one way while their customers would make financial decisions differently.
  • Feedback from the training was very good said Davis. A comment typical of the realizations people gained: “I realize now why I feel defensive when people come in with their iPhone and their brand new shoes and they’ve overdrawn their bank account three times at Burger King for $1.50. And I realize I need to check myself and be more understanding.”


  • “We’re trying to get everyone speaking the same language in our community with financial capability. Money Habitudes is one of many we use, but it’s the one that’s more emotional and touchy-feely – but without being too fluffy and forming a circle or doing a group hug or singing Kumbaya,” says Davis.

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.”

Transitioning from Financial Literacy Seminars to Financial Counseling

The Issue: How to get more people to feel comfortable attending financial literacy classes – and then to seek out financial counseling. An important component is to help people understand that improving one’s finances is often about more than just the math or doing a budget.
Who: Sally Massey Wiebe is a Financial Counsellor with Community Financial Counselling Services. CFCS is a United Way-supported non-profit based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Community Financial Counselling ServicesWhat: CFCS often works with vulnerable, high-risk populations. It partners with other interrelated organizations around workforce readiness, free tax preparation or gambling. It provides services for:

  • financial counseling
  • debt management
  • gambling addiction
  • employment and income assistance issues
  • financial literacy (consumer education/information)


  • While much of CFCS’s work is done in individual or couples counseling, the organization raises awareness for its services (credit counseling, debt management, etc.) by doing financial literacy seminars. This may be for community groups, other organizations, or the public.
  • These financial literacy seminars often address behavioral economics and behavioral finance. The goal is to get people to see that values, behaviors, habits, attitudes and emotions play a significant role in financial decision-making. CFCS’s financial seminars stress that fixing one’s finances is not just about math.
  • Massey Wiebe notes that addressing financial habits and attitudes as opposed to just doing a budget, is also a friendlier, more human introduction to what can be a difficult, scary topic.
  • In financial seminars, Massey Wiebe talks about the Money Habitudes methodology, mentioning the different money personality types and the way these affect people’s financial decision-making process. She also tells participants about the Money Habitudes cards and offers to let people use them when they return for financial counseling. Participants discuss the basic Money Habitudes types, but do not actually use the cards in the awareness seminar. “Even without having gone through the exercise in great detail, there’s an awareness of the significant differences between the Money Habitudes types that allows people to say, ‘Oh, I can see where that might be an issue for me.’ I encourage them to explore the concepts further by coming in to meet with us and do the Money Habitudes exercise.”
  • For Canada’s annual Financial Literacy Month, CFCS put on a seminar called, “Is It Just About Money?” which made people aware of the behavioral components of personal finance, rather than just focusing on tallying accounts, doing a budget or filling out a spreadsheet. “That message resonated with people. We had 30 people in our class. From the feedback we got, it certainly seemed that this approach made sense where a ‘how to do a budget’ session probably wouldn’t have gotten people to attend,” said Massey Wiebe.
  • When people come in for individual or couples counseling, they are offered the opportunity to use the Money Habitudes cards. Some also specifically request the activity after hearing about the cards in the larger financial seminar.
  • A first financial counseling session usually lasts one and a half hours. It not only involves assessing the client’s situation but also laying a foundation for a strong, trusting relationship. Couples may sometimes choose to do the Money Habitudes activity separately with a counselor instead of sorting their cards at the same time.
  • CFCS tends to develop long-term relationships and works to address financial issues holistically, rather than just servicing debt or providing credit counseling and ignoring other issues.


  • “Money Habitudes helps them put all the pieces of their financial puzzle on the table and see if they’re achieving what they want to achieve, where there are obstacles they create for themselves, and where there are solutions that can be facilitated with a new understanding and new perspective of why they do what they do with their money.”
  • “There’s often a sense of ‘I’ve tried to do a budget so many times and blown it every single time, so why would I want to put myself through that again? Instead, it’s important to understand why we get ourselves into the financial predicaments we do by seeing it from a different perspective.”
  • “Money Habitudes can be a way to help people discover what they do or have been doing, what are advantages of changing that, or understand how they relate to their partner in a real, hands-on way that can, in some cases, encapsulate several sessions of discussion just by looking at the result from the That’s me pile. We can dissect it further, but it really gives us a good place to start.”
  • “We’re trying to get people to realize that it’s not that you’re stupid or lame or unable. It’s because there’s this information that runs behind the scenes – you’re not even thinking about what you do – so let’s go to that place and translate it to how it affects the decisions you make about your budget or your credit.”
  • “It’s really crucial that it’s not just about, ‘Let’s do the math!’ It’s about, ‘Let’s understand what you have to deal with already. And Money Habitudes is an engaging, non-threatening way to help people recognize patterns and perspectives on money.”

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.”