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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.

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.”

Financial education program for bogus check writers

The Issue: How to help people understand their financial attitudes and spending habits in a fun way in a financial education program.
Who: Susan Routh is an Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences in Grady County, Oklahoma. She also serves on the executive board of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS).
What: Routh teaches the Making Sense of Money Management program. The financial education program is offered within a four-county area (Grady, Caddo, Stephens, and Jefferson County) for bogus check offenders and the public. The class is designed to help families and individuals to better manage household finances. Routh uses Money Habitudes as part of the financial education program.

  • financial educaiton toolkitThe financial education program is offered monthly. The financial classes usually have 10-20 participants. Students come a diverse range of ages.
  • The 4-hour financial class is usually held during a weekday afternoon. Participants pay a nominal fee of $15 for the class, which covers materials they take home.
  • The public can attend the money management classes, but most of the students come from a partnership with the district attorney’s office which refers people who have gone to court for writing bad checks.
  • Because students are compelled to attend and because they are struggling financially (part of the reason they wrote bad checks), there is a sense of defensiveness that a facilitator has to overcome.
  • As a result, Routh says the approach is one where the class isn’t structured to be punitive, to say, “you’re bad and did something illegal.” Instead, Routh takes an approach “that you did this because you needed money and how can we help you so your finances are in better shape?”
  • “We don’t want to lecture to people. We want the class to be hands-on. We want people to be able to practice and really use what we’re teaching. That’s where the Money Habitudes cards come in,” says Routh.
  • The Making Sense of Money Management class starts with an introduction about  financial management. The financial education program then covers:
    • what is a check register and what is a bank statement; what it means to use a checking account.
    • credit reports and how to manage credit well.
    • debt management
    • the importance of savings and emergency savings
    • attitudes about spending and goal setting
    • financial goal setting
    • making a spending plan; what’s coming and going out
  • Money Habitudes cards are used in the section for understanding spending habits. Participants are allowed 20-25 minutes to sort the cards.
  • After doing the sorting activity, participants find their own money personality type and go through the interpretation cards. This may be followed by group discussion on spending habits, social influences on spending, etc.
  • Hand-in-hand with understanding one’s current behavior around money, students also create a SMART financial goal about where they want to be in 30 days. These goals are then mailed to participants later in the month.
  • Because of the time limitations of the financial education program, Routh and a few colleagues developed a financial education toolkit for students to take home. It includes resources to help people manage their finances on their own.
  • “At the end, people always want to take the cards home and share them with people they share their finances with so they can understand where other people are coming from,” says Routh.


  • “When people use the cards, there’s often a moment of truth,” says Routh.
  • “Reading about the different personality types opens the door to people giving themselves a chance to switch lanes.”
  • “We’ve seen remarkable changes in the people who’ve gone though the class,” says Routh. There have been about 250 participants since the program started in 2008.

An Improved Series of Financial Classes for TANF

The Issue: How to make TANF financial classes more approachable and effective.
TANF financial classesWho: Sonya McDaniel, CFLE, is an extension educator who focuses on family and consumer science in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma.
What: McDaniel runs a series of financial classes for the county’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program. A federal program through the Department of Health and Human Services, TANF provides local assistance and work opportunities to needy families.

  • McDaniel teaches financial classes for three different TANF groups in her county: a low-literacy group, a group completing GED requirements and a group getting vocational skills training.
  • Students get other life skills and career training through the TANF program; McDaniel does an in-service on financial skills.
  • Typically, the financial classes have 10-12 people. Everyone works with his or her own deck of Money Habitudes cards.
  • McDaniel teaches a standard series of three financial classes for these TANF groups. Each of the financial classes is an hour and the series takes three weeks.
  • Before switching to using Money Habitudes, the series of financial classes began with a first class that focused almost exclusively on needs and wants. However, it was not as dynamic, engaging or fun as McDaniel wanted. She always believed in starting with a less threatening class before covering financial skills in later classes.
  • After an introduction to the series and a brief overview of how habits and attitudes about money are formed, the entirety of the hour-long class is devoted to doing Money Habitudes. Participants sort their cards and then go through an interpretation step, looking at their money personality profile.
  • This first class still maintains some of the big ideas from the original needs and wants class. McDaniel says the class on habits and attitudes, featuring Money Habitudes, does the following:
    • Energizes people and gets them excited while also putting them at ease because the activity is fun, hands-on and feels like a game.
    • Establishes an environment that is nonjudgmental.
    • Starts people talking and sharing in positive ways about their financial experiences.
    • Helps participants acknowledge that they have money and make spending decisions. Without the Money Habitudes activity, McDaniel says participants tend to dismiss financial education as pointless (and they therefore don’t participate) because they say they have so little money that the class isn’t relevant to them.
  • “Most of the time, the assessment that comes from doing the cards is dead on. Very rarely will I have someone who says it isn’t right,” says McDaniel about the money personality profile results they get by doing the Money Habitudes activity.
  • Participants in the financial classes generally know each other because they spend so much time together in the TANF program. McDaniel says students often interact when sorting the cards and looking at their money personality results. While these discussions are often full of laughter and smiles, sometimes students offer serious insight and advice to each other.
  • After doing the money personality interpretation step, there is some group discussion about the results.
  • At the end of the first class, McDaniel asks the students to keep a spending journal to go over the next week in class. The worksheet she uses comes from Idaho Extension’s Dollar Decisions financial curriculum. She says that students can also make their own tracking sheet by simply folding a piece of paper a few times and using the boxes for different days or categories (e.g., gas, food, etc.).
  • After a first class that students really enjoy, McDaniel says she gets a warm reception when returning for the next financial classes.
  • The second and third financial classes are drawn from the Dollar Decisions financial curriculum, which is written to “teach low- and moderate-income adults successful ways to track expenses and make ends meet.” The curriculum (which is available in English and Spanish) can be adapted for one 30-minute class, one 1-hour class, or two 1-hour classes. “Dollar Decisions is really great for this audience and adding Money Habitudes at the beginning really sets the right tone,” says McDaniel.
  • The second class starts with setting a financial goal. McDaniel says the goals are more relevant and specific (versus just “I want to say more”) after students have done the first Money Habitudes class. This class then covers making a spending plan. McDaniel says that the students’ budgets end up being more realistic after the first class. For example, students may still build in the cost of cigarettes or going to a casino (often omitted when people feel judged by a teacher or counselor), but set realistic goals for such expenses. This class also covers tracking expenses and how to stay within a budget. The curriculum includes videos which are included in the class.
  • The third financial class covers how to manage money. This may be using a ledger, a calendar or envelope systems.


  • “Students are a lot more receptive the next time I walk through the door when I’ve done Money Habitudes first. They’re like, ‘Oh, we’re going to talk about money and it’s not going to be bad!’ I do Money Habitudes at the beginning because it makes people more receptive. And it sets the tone that we’re not going to be judgmental; that we’re not going to come in and say, ‘You’re a horrible money manager!’ The cards set the tone that it’s all about understanding yourself.”
  • “Money Habitudes helps me get to know the students better so I can tailor thoughts or examples to them, or when helping them follow through in writing a budget.  I was very bored with teaching money management and it gave me something more entertaining and interactive to teach,” says McDaniel.
  • “I usually do Money Habitudes in the very first workshop. It’s a way I can get students talking about money and talking about their spending and loosen them up a bit to even be receptive. If I go in and I immediately start talking about needs and wants and budgets, they’ll just tell me they don’t have any money. If I do Money Habitudes with them, they’ve already admitted that they have money and they spend it.”
  • “With Money Habitudes, students are learning something and they’re thinking about stuff, but it doesn’t feel like schoolwork.”
  • “Money Habitudes helps me get students’ buy-in so they’re even receptive to making a budget or evaluating their spending.”
  • “After we do Money Habitudes and people see their own spending habits, then we do a spending plan or budget. At that point, I know if I have a Planner or a Giver in the group; I know what their personalities are. We talk about how a budget only matters if you’re going to do it; it needs to work for you. So for people with a lot of Planning cards, I make them budget ‘free’ money. Or if I know they’re giving their kids everything they want, I’m going to really focus on gifts being ok in a budget, but knowing the number you can really afford.”

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.”

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 and Relationship Classes that are Fun and Engaging

airman and family financial and relationship classesThe Issue: How to get servicemembers – and their spouses – to want to attend financial education and relationship education classes and come back for more.
Who: Gary Strickland, chief of the Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) at Mountain Home Air Force Base.
What: Mountain Home Air Force Base revolves around the 366th Fighter Wing of the Air Combat Command. Its Airman and Family Readiness Center provides individuals, families and leadership with policy, programs and services that strengthen communities and promote self-sufficiency, mission readiness and adaptation to the Air Force way of life. Although the Airman and Family Readiness Center serves a wide range of servicemembers and their families, many of its students and clients are young airmen who are 18-22.

  • At Mountain Home AFB, Money Habitudes cards are used in three ways:
    • One-hour finance class. Strickland calls this “a teaser.” It has a fun, non-threatening appeal so airmen want to attend. Having had a good experience and taken a financial education class, it opens participants’ eyes to related issues they want more help on: communication, saving, handling credit, TSP, etc. “Once you have them in one class, you want to give enough information about our other classes – not so much that they feel like they have to take the class, but to spark interest to get them to sign up,” says Strickland.
    • A multi-hour block during the base’s all-day finance class. Before diving into other topics like budgeting, students learn about their underlying money mindset. After each individual does the money personality sorting exercise, it transitions to a class conversation about the various Money Habitudes categories. “It leads into a really good discussion,” says Strickland.
    • As a one-hour module in MHAFB’s all-day marriage class, based on the PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) curriculum. The cards are used to complement PREP’s own brief section on money as well as the role of different personalities in marriage.
  • Many individuals get one-on-one counseling before going to a finance or relationship class. This makes people feel more comfortable in a group environment and decreases any stigma of seeking help from the Airman and Family Readiness Center. “We handle almost every single negative with a personal, individual visit or a series of individual appointments. So by the time the person is put into a class, it’s not seen as a negative,” says Strickland.
  • Finance classes typically have 20 people and are often full. The financial class usually has 80 percent individual airmen; 20 percent are airmen and their spouses. The marriage class is attended by 7-10 couples.


  • Strickland says that the biggest financial issue he sees is the availability of credit. “Military folks gets credit real easy. It’s easy for them to get themselves into debt,” he notes. It’s important to keep airman in good financial shape – and prepare them for the future.
  • Using Money Habitudes makes the classes seem non-threatening and fun – which is important if attendees are going to return for other classes. “Word of mouth is our biggest marketing tool,” says Strickland.
  • Strickland advocates for programs that are active and engaging. In addition to the hands-on Money Habitudes activity, the AFRC’s programs draw on role playing, peer coaching, video clips, projects and group discussion. As a case in point, while the PREP marriage program comes with some 300 PowerPoint slides, the base only utilizes about 25 to underscore main points. “My belief is that the more senses a person engages, the better off they are in gaining and retaining the information,” he says.
  • “One of the classes we do uses the PREP model. PREP includes brief sections on personalities and why couples fight. We looked at those two sections and thought that the different personalities in handling money is so important, so we need more than 5 minutes on those and that’s why we bring in Money Habitudes. And Money Habitudes is catchy and people are going to sign up for that class. It doesn’t take away from PREP but it adds and builds.”

Integrating the Emotional and Behavioral Aspects of Personal Finance into Financial Education

The Issue: How to effectively train financial educators and coaches about the behavioral and emotional side of personal finance so they better understand the concepts and themselves and are thus better able to help their clients and students.

Maryland CASH integrates emotional and behavioral aspects of personal finance in financial educationWho: Robin McKinney, MSW, is the director and co-founder of the Maryland CASH Campaign. A veteran of the asset building field, McKinney was previously the program assistant for Family Economic Success at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. She was also the assistant director at the East Harbor Community Development Corporation’s MoneyWise Café, a one-stop shop for free and low-cost tax preparation, financial coaching and education and access to affordable financial services. She served on the Steering Committee for the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) and the board of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, Civil Justice Network and the Rural Maryland Foundation.

What: The Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) Campaign is a statewide network of organizations that promote financial stability for working families. The organization coordinates financial education practitioners, while focusing on three main initiatives: capacity building and training, financial education and research and advocacy. The organization uses Money Habitudes as a standard training component for its own financial educators and coaches, as well as in financial education training it does for other organizations.

  • McKinney builds Money Habitudes into all of her organization’s practitioner trainings. Facilitators are expected to understand not just the numbers and budgeting side of financial education and coaching, but also the behavioral aspects of how and why people spend and save.
  • As a part of Maryland CASH’s standard financial education training, McKinney focuses on the emotional and behavioral sides of money; each trainee discovers his or her own Money Habitudes money personality.
  • Following the Money Habitudes financial self-assessment, she has practitioners do a version of the budgeting bean game, a tool that  helps participants understand how personality and money values affect actual financial decision-making. “Throughout the day of training for facilitators, at some point, 99 percent of people in the audience have a realization that their own money habits, attitudes and values have been getting in the way of what they’re trying to do with their clients,” says McKinney.
  • Practitioners (social workers, financial educators, etc.) not only learn how to work with the cards to better understand how they relate to money, but also so they can do the activity with end-user clients. This may be as a class activity or in one-on-one coaching. The cards are included as a tool for Maryland CASH partners and their staff.
  • The cards are also used as a mid-conversation energizer in financial coaching and counseling. “If you’re stuck or someone is just shutting down, pick out a card and use it as a discussion point that’s outside the current situation,” says McKinney.
  • In addition to training financial educators and coaches, Maryland CASH conducts standalone workshops on topics such as savings and spending plans. In these financial workshops, the organization uses the cards in a classroom setting with end-users.


Making it easy to talk about money

  • The playing cards and format are non-threatening. “What’s really nice about having people answer those statements is you’re basically asking them their opinion on something that’s separate from themselves. You’re getting a lot of information about how they personally think and feel about things without asking them personal financial questions. You’re not asking them, ‘How much money do you have in credit card debt?’ or ‘Why do you think you got in so much credit card debt?’ With the Money Habitudes statements, you get towards the same answer, but people don’t have to feel interrogated.”

Broadly applicable and easy to use

  • “It’s a tool that works equally well with practitioners and clients and I like to train practitioners with tools that they can turn around and use with their clients.”
  • They’re flexible and can be used effectively in almost any situation. “I can pick up that deck of cards and get into a good money conversation with anyone,” says McKinney. “I carry them with me. I seriously have a deck in my purse at all times because I use them so frequently. It’s a go-to, no matter what I do.”
  • They’re easy to use. “You could literally pick this deck of cards up with no training, with no investment in staff time except for the deck of cards and figure out how to do it – and do something meaningful with it. People are always looking for tools that are plug-and-play. And the cards are just ‘play’ – there’s nothing to ‘plug.’ It’s that fast. To have something that’s a quick pick-up tool, but is this effective is very rare. It’s a minimum investment for a maximum return.”

Integrating financial behaviors and emotions into financial education

  • “The emotional and behavioral side of money is new. And it’s the harder part and it’s really connected to self-efficacy. A lot of our human service workforce, because they’ve never really been trained in how to talk to people about their finances, instead perform tasks with clients such as doing a budget. Talking about your underlying beliefs about money is a hard conversation,” says McKinney.
  • The exercise helps financial educators and coaches better understand themselves, better relate to their clients and better understand the behaviors behind saving and spending habits. “I always felt a missing component of financial education was being able to discuss the emotional side of money and what’s underneath someone’s habits and behaviors. And this is the first thing I start with. I feel like everyone needs to get rooted in this to even understand how we frame how to work with people around their money.”
  • “Basic financial management is about math. It’s about the black and white numbers of what’s coming in and what’s going out. But when it comes to financial decision-making, setting goals and being able to achieve your goals and do what you want to do, that’s where emotion comes in. And as we all know, emotions have a huge role to play in financial decision-making. There are lots of tools and calculators and spreadsheets to help us manage the black and white, math part of finances. But we really don’t have a way to even start the conversation about how to deal with the emotional side and the Money Habitudes activity is one way to start that conversation,” says McKinney.
  • “I don’t think people are intentionally not including this behavioral component; I just think people don’t understand until they see it how important and vital it is to what they’re doing. Instead, people are teaching stock, off-the-shelf financial education and then wondering why they’re not getting the outcomes they want to see.”

Making financial conversations more meaningful

  • “I use the Money Habitudes cards in all of our practitioner trainings which are about preparing the human workforce to deliver financial stability services. It’s part of our standard training. For us, it’s a basic tenet that anyone that is doing this work and working with us should know and understand and be articulate about.”
  • “The cards get you that Aha! moment. You see the wheels turning and people really thinking, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought about that!’ It’s something new. You can teach things like credit scores and it’ll be new information and people will say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know they collect that,’ but it’s different with the cards where someone says, ‘I didn’t realize that about myself!'”

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.