Happy Financial Literacy Month from FLC pt. 1

Lesson Plan 1

For Teachers, tutors and adult students – take a look at how to make financial literacy a family affair!

Being “Money Smart” goes by many names….

Some people call it financial literacy, personal finance or money management – but at the end of the day, it’s all about making the most of your money.

As April, comes peaking  around the corner, adults are concerned about  taxes, teens about how to pay their first semester in college next year , and kids are making plans for lemonade stands and summer income…here are some fun and informative ideas  to keep  smart  about money  by gaining knowledge  to share with your family.

Money sense for kids

Money sense for teens

Money sense for parents

 

 

Jakita Allen: Financial literacy and the Adult Literacy League

There’s something about the combination of New Year’s resolutions and tax deadlines that makes most of us want to get our financial houses in order. Managing your money can seem like a daunting chore to anyone, but that can be especially true for adult learners.  While we certainly know several successful students, many often do not have the skills to create their own financial plan. Many students struggle not only with text literacy, but also with numeracy, or number literacy, which can make such chores even more intimidating. For the past nine months, the Adult Literacy League (ALL) has tackled this challenge for the students we serve, including those learning English and those with literacy skills below the 5th grade level.

The Adult Literacy League continuously provides training and support to tutors, so they can reach beyond the standard literacy curriculum to help students build lives for their families that are financially stable and sustainable. Tutors fight illiteracy on the front lines by working with adult learners on a one-to-one basis to help them achieve their personal goals. These goals are the benchmarks our students use to measure their own success. We often receive reports that say things like, “Now, I can read my paycheck!” Imagine reaching that milestone after already working for twenty years.

In our job skills classes, we have helped students write resumes, practice interview techniques, apply for jobs on line, and learn important job retention skills. In just the past year, at least 35 of our students have found jobs, 20 obtained first-time employment, and an even greater number have improved their work situation. This is one of the key outcomes we use to measure whether our students are gaining financial stability. We are also very proud of those students, about 20, who have continued their education to get a GED and/or post-secondary education or training.

Our “More for the Money” program offers classes to all students, including those learning English.  In this class, I helped students learn to make a spending plan by making financial goals, determining the steps they needed to get there, and recording their progress. We talked about things as simple as writing checks, how to manage a bank account, and keeping track of the money we spend. We used the “Control Your Money” workbook from New Readers Press, which is a little easier for students at the lower literacy levels. The Adult Literacy League is now working with an experienced volunteer to redesign elements of the FDIC “Money Smart” curriculum to provide classes for our students.

.
We are proud to report that our instructors, tutors, and students have reported more than 200 positive outcomes based on improved financial sustainability.  New jobs, better jobs, career training, workable resumes, job interviews, budgeting skills, new bank counts, and savings & retirement plans.  Improving these skills helps our students develop their basic skills and transform the future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Scholarships for Continuing Education

To go along with the GED theme of this month, I decided to include a post that has information on scholarship opportunities for adults looking to continue their education. Jan Smith put together a wonderful blog post a while back that went over several free resources for financial aid. Be sure to check that out, along with visiting these other sources.

The following are different scholarship sources. Before you give up the search, be sure you have covered all battle grounds. I found these from a great website focused on Continuing Education. 

Federal Grants
Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants are available through the federal government. The money eligible adults receive from these two grants range from a hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. You cannot apply for the grants directly to the federal government. You must apply through your college or school of choice and they will forward it to the federal government. The earlier you apply through a school, the more likely you are to receive a federal grant. Additional information is avialable at Federal Student Financial Aid.

State Grants
Most states provide grants to residents. Some of these grants are based on financial need, others are based ethic orientation, and for those enrolling in designated college programs such as technical fields. Some states even provide grants for adults desiring to continue their education. Unlike federal grants, application must be made directly to a state’s commission on higher education.

College Grants
Many traditional online colleges, universities, and technical schools provide students with grant money for tuition not funded by other sources. Many schools offer these grants to minorities, low economic background students, and older students returning to school for continuing education. Not only do adults benefit from these grants, schools benefit financially for enrolling these students. This in turn enables the school to provide additional grant money for adults returning to school.

Corporate Scholarships
Corporate scholarships are targeted for adults from underprivileged backgrounds, outstanding scholarship, community involvement, or enrollment in specific programs such as nursing. Although corporate scholarships have deep scholarship money pockets, the competition is steep. Applying to these scholarships must be early, along with accurate applications.

Private Grants
These grants offered through charities, religious organizations, community associations, fraternal orders, unions, and other organizations. For example the U.S. Navy Relief Society provides grants for active and retired members, along with their families for continuing education programs.

List of scholarships available for non-traditional students. 

FastWeb scholarship database includes more than 230 awards with a minimum age restriction of 25 years or older. FastWeb also has tips for writing your essays, so check that out before you start applying.

Hope Lynn: What’s your money style?

I have style! Money style that is. Take a lesson from what I learned about myself to see how your money style can affect your past, present and future financial literacy.

.

I found this financial awareness quiz on line today, How Does Your “Money Style” Affect Your Life,  thanks to my subscription to Money Talks.  It’s a great website to learn about your money style and then learn from Ashley Barnett on how to turn the patterns of your relationship to money around.

.

As it turns out, I am an avoider!  I never wanted to be concerned with money. Everyone should have everything they need; no hunger, poverty, medical bills or illiteracy should deprive people of their human rights. My upbringing was based on the philosophy that with an education all things are possible.  I am an idealist, a child of the 60s.  I was so fortunate to have an education at a high ranking yet low cost city college in New York, and to have had a career in the field of my choice.  I shared what was important to me, a love of literature and writing with my students as my pay check was reliably deposited into my bank account and my retirement fund grew.  The funds were there when I needed to buy a house, have a child and replace a car. I lived the American Dream and am now a retired Boomer. Sadly, I know today that dream is quite fleeting for the next generation. I recently left the teaching profession after more than 30 years, and am now an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for The Florida Literacy Coalition.  I am aware that joblessness, poverty, hunger and illiteracy are growing as our economy struggles to resurface in troubled times.  More than ever we need to know where our money comes from and how it can be of best use. I know I can no longer avoid knowing about money!

America Saves Week: Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically

The theme for America Saves Week 2012 is more than just a theme; it’s a simple set of instructions to help you save successfully. Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it, and then making the savings process automatic will allow you to reach your savings goal.
… 

Set a Goal
You can save more by having a goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to withdraw from your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So what are you saving for? An emergency fund, a home, retirement, a car?

..
Make a Plan
Once you have your goal in place, make a plan of how you are going to save. To start, cut down on your spending and reduce high-cost debt. Next, keep track of what you spend and make a budget. Once you know where your money is going each month, you can cut down on unneeded spending and save the difference. Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions, and even the government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.

..
Save Automatically
It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Many employers allow you to divide your paycheck into different accounts through direct deposit. Take advantage by putting part of your pay into a savings account. If you get paid in cash, take a small amount to the bank to deposit into a savings account each week.

Join America Saves to get tips and advice year round and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Gil C Schmidt: Play “Monopoly” For Your Financial Life

Gil C. Schmidt

Too many of us keep treating money like it’s not real.

Take “Monopoly,” the famous game of real estate buy and sell. It’s almost certainly the first thing we think of when the phrase “funny money” is mentioned. We even say “Monopoly money” for “fake” currencies or to describe how some people treat money like it’s just cheap pieces of colored paper, right?

Here’s the thing: Your level of financial literacy is directly tied to how serious and realistic your concept of money is. I do not mean that you treat money like an end-all and be-all. I mean that you have to learn to see money clearly for what it is: a multi-purpose tool that must be adapted to your needs and goals.

Notice my definition gives you three levels of control: your needs (that includes your wants, because your needs have to take precedence over your wants), your goals and ultimately, your money. That’s what financial literacy is all about.

Too many of us think that learning to be financially literate is too hard, too overwhelming to even attempt. So rather than start learning, we skip it altogether. But we actually know more than we think, and in fact, we are already on the path to financial literacy.

Now back to “Monopoly.” If you want to see how much you already know about financial literacy, then I suggest you play “Monopoly” with one simple change: use real money.

Now I don’t expect you to use $1,500 or even $150; I suggest you use $15.00 and adjust all prices, taxes and rents accordingly. In this version, buying Boardwalk wouldn’t cost $400 of “funny money,” but $4.00 of real money.

If you play the game until one player wins, you’ll find yourself automatically thinking about needs, wants and goals, because the game itself “frames” these and you make your choices according to your plans. For example, you may want Boardwalk and Park Place, but you need a red property for a monopoly advantage. Or you may want to build another set of houses on your monopoly and even need to (to stay competitive), but you’re too far from “Go” and have to pass major rents along the way, so maybe building will have to wait.

The purpose of using real money is not for you to gamble, but for you to realize that you already automatically do the basics of financial literacy. You balance needs and wants and control your money according to a plan. If you can do it in “Monopoly,” you can do it in real life…because you’re already in “the real game”: it’s your real money already in play.

Final thought: financial literacy is not some dull harness. It is fun and liberating, a truly powerful knowledge set that will change your life for the better. And if you can make progress in getting enthused and learning about it playing “Monopoly,” well, I did say it was fun, right?

Denise Smalls: Goodwill’s Money $ense

In partnership with United Way, Goodwill Industries of Central Florida is proud to announce the Money $ense Program.  The program consists of a series of four FREE Financial Literacy classes to be offered once each week for four consecutive weeks.  Each week class builds on the previous week information.  The classes are two hours per week and the instructors are teaching this class in the community.  The classes are being conducted in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

The classes provide information on the following topics:

  • Banking Basics
  • Spending and Saving Plan
  • Tracking your Money
  • Credit/Debit

The class will also discuss Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), making better financial choices, how credit affects employment, credit cards, bank fees and grocery shopping among other subjects.

These classes use a different paradigm to teach finance to individuals.  We use Financial Socialwork which looks at the behavior, attitude, and habits of individuals.  We want to make people aware of how they have manage money in the past and whether the decisions they made were the best for their families and will assist them to achieve their future goals.  The instructors’ goal is to create sustainable, long-term financial behavioral change in the participants who attend the class

The model

  • Motivates men and women to choose to deal with money in a different way.
  • Teaches how to anticipate, prepare for and cope with setbacks and disappointments.
  • Provides the information and insight to make knowledge based choices and decisions.
  • Supports change with a clear “Change process”
  • Focuses on success with “Five Specific Steps to Success.”
  • Integrates validation, recognition and encouragement.
  • Incorporates a self-assessment process which contributes to growing sense of self, self-worth and self-confidence.
  • Expands self-awareness and personal growth as well as increasing financial knowledge.

The outcomes of the Money $ense Program are as follows:

  • Developing and using a Monthly Spending Plan
  • Opening and using a bank account
  • Establishing and/or achieving credit awareness

The program also includes the opportunity to participate in a one on one personal follow along for all your personal financial issues.

The Money $ense classes are interactive and engaging.  The clients are provided handouts, exercises and printed material on a variety of different areas.  We have engaging discussions with the clients on money management and while there are no right or wrong answers we want to make the individual think about the decisions they implement when it comes to their resources.

We invite all individuals to attend the class whether they are young or old, rich or poor, male or female because everyone could use help managing their money.

For more information on this initiative, please visit the Goodwill Community Service page. 

Jan Smith: Higher Education Blues

We’ve all been there – after months of preparation, our student passes the GED exam and has great plans to go to college only to be discouraged by the amount of paperwork required for admissions, financial aid, and class registration.

In addition, funding a postsecondary education can be overwhelming especially for non-traditional students who have had to overcome many barriers already to get to this point of their education.

As counselors, tutors, and instructors for Adult Ed/ESOL students, you play an important role in transitioning your students to higher education.  Rather than re-creating the wheel, use the following FREE resources and ideas to help guide your students through the financial aid maze:

1)  Consider having an OSFA Outreach Representative visit your classroom.  The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), Florida Department of Education, administers state grants and scholarships for Florida.  An Outreach Representative is available to speak directly with your students about financial aid options and other financial literacy topics such as budgeting, managing credit, school and life management, searching for scholarships, and more.

Did you know that the Bright Futures Scholarship is available for GED students too?  Students must apply and meet general eligibility requirements BEFORE taking the GED exam to be considered.  For more information, please visit their website.

To learn more about OSFA’s free resources and locate an Outreach    Representative near you, please visit www.navigatingyourfuture.org.

2)  The U.S. Department of Education offers guidance through its websitewww.StudentAid.ed.gov.  Select “Non-Traditional Students” to find a step by step guide for approaching higher education.

3)  The Federal Trade Commission offers many free resources and lists scholarship scams reported to the agency.  For more information, please visitwww.ftc.gov and search for “scholarship scams” to read the latest reports of fraudulent activity.

4)  Consider organizing a “Searching for Scholarships” group that meets weekly and allows students to help each other with applications and essays.

Heart of Florida United Way: Hold on to your money!

The one-two punch of holiday spending and the arrival of tax season can leave a lot of people feeling stressed over their finances. Every year, taxpayers spend hundreds of dollars to have their taxes prepared. Did you know that you can have your taxes done for free at a location near you? This year, Heart of Florida United Way is pleased to continue its successful initiative, the Prosperity Campaign of Central Florida. The campaign is focused on helping Central Floridians hold on to the money that they are entitled to. One way is through promoting the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA).

VITA sites are locations that provide free tax preparation by IRS-trained volunteers.  Taxpayers can save hundreds of dollars in filing fees and receive 100% of their refund by filing at one of these sites. Refunds are received quickly and easily – usually within 10 days or less.

The Heart of Florida United Way works with the IRS to promote VITA sites throughout Central Florida. Finding them is easy. Simply dial 2-1-1 once filing season starts (January 20th) and ask for the location near you.

Taxpayers can also ask about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a federal tax credit for individuals and families that earn under certain income thresholds. This year, hard-working residents may qualify for a tax credit of up to $5,751! If you qualify and have already filed your taxes, you can re-file for this year and the last three years to claim your credit. That can result in over $20,000 for families that qualify.

To see if you qualify for the EITC, click here.

To find a VITA site near you, visit our website or simply dial 2-1-1 (After January 10)