Financial Literacy Track Preview: Denise Smalls- Income or Wealth?

How many of you are working for income or wealth?  What is the difference?  Income is today and wealth is tomorrow.  One of the ways to accumulate wealth is to start saving for a retirement fund.  Are you currently saving for retirement?  If so, are you saving enough to retire comfortably?

According to the Retirement Confidence Survey, only 66% of workers have saved money for retirement.  These numbers go down significantly for workers who make less than $35,000/year (24%).  A number of people live for today and handle tomorrow when it gets here.  However, these are the same individuals who do not have enough money to pay for both medical and housing expenses.  Are you depending on Social Security to help you with tomorrow?  What happens if social security changes the way it provides funds in the future?  Could this change reduce the amount of money you will need to live on tomorrow?  Let’s say that Social Security does not change and you will receive the same amount that a retiree is getting today, is that enough to live on?  Why don’t you go ask a couple of our seniors who are currently living on Social Security alone and find out how comfortable they are living?

Saving for retirement is a good first step but you have to do more.  You have to determine how much money you will need to save before you can retire. More than 50% of workers, according to the Retirement Confidence Survey, do not know how much money they will need to have to retire.  It is equally important to know if you are on the right track with your retirement goals.  How will you pay for medical expenses?  How will you pay for housing and food expenses?  Do you want to travel or visit your potential grandchildren?  Do you want to spend time playing golf, tennis or bingo?  Do you want to volunteer or work part time?  There are so many decisions that have to be made and while you can’t foresee the future you can definitely plan for it.

There are numerous calculators on the Internet that can help you make a determination on how much money is needed for retirement.  One such calculator is from CNN Money http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/retirementneed/retirementneed_plain.html and AARP also has a good retirement calculator http://www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/retirement_calculator/

For more information on retirement and other money management questions, feel free to come to the Money $ense classes where we speak about the above issues as well as how to build and/or fix credit, how to get a free credit report, how to create a spending plan and what are the advantages of using a financial institution.  The class schedule is located at http://www.goodwillcfl.org/services.php.  Go to the bottom of the page for financial programs and select Money $ense class schedule.

Are you working for income or wealth?  Why don’t you use the income you are making to achieve the wealth you want?  How do you accomplish this goal, come to the Money $ense class to find out.

Employee Benefit Research Institute. (2013). Preparing for Retirement in America.  2013 RCS Fact Sheet #3.  Retrieved from http://www.ebri.org/files/Final-FS.RCS-13.FS_3.Saving.FINAL.pdf

April Returns as Financial Literacy Month

After doing some research on Financial Literacy Month, I’ve concluded that this post may be a week late but it is still quite necessary. There simply isn’t much information out there other than the standard April-is-Financial-Literacy-Month article. That’s a good first step, but often these articles don’t provide any sort of information to improve a reader’s money management skills- just short bits to ‘increase awareness’. If this was a discussion on social media strategies, I’d say that this type of article doesn’t do enough to make the reader get to that next level of involvement; I digress. Without any further advocacy ado, I assure you April is Financial Literacy Month.

Sadly, a majority of us have not been taught how to manage our finances responsibly, which can lead to dangerous financial decisions. It was reported that in 2012, only 13 states required students to take a course on personal finance. Teaching the basics of financial literacy is vital to give low-income adults the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty, especially considering that most of our adult learners have had less schooling than their credentialed counterparts, who themselves most likely have not received formal financial education lessons. That’s why financial literacy has been given its own month, because more needs to be done.

When it comes to being involved with a literacy-based organization, we all learn to work with what we’re given, and we learn to make it work. Naturally, the same can be said for incorporating financial literacy lessons for adult learners. As mentioned earlier, although you may have heard about Financial Literacy Month before, chances are you weren’t given any resources to help improve your money management skills. It becomes evident when searching for financial literacy resources targeted towards adult learners or ESOL students that this can be an even more challenging endeavor than searching for information accessible to the native speaker. So, to help you in your quest for financial literacy resources, I leave you with some resources for your perusal.

  • Financial Literacy Month by Money Management International Geared towards the apple pie loving American, this site provides daily steps towards becoming financially responsible complete with tons of resources from which to choose.
  • Financial Literacy Lesson Plans Want to know what to consider as you’re making a lesson plan for financial education? Check out this article for some insights.
  • Financial Literacy Lessons for ESL Students Here are some already created lessons for you to use with your adult learners, brought to you by San Diego Centers for Education & Technology.
  • Financial Literacy Video Games for Adult Learners Want to mix up your financial literacy lesson? Choose from “Taking a Bite Out of Debt and Spending” or “Rooting Out the Killer Bunnies” which your students can learn while they play a video game!

    *Warning- If you are a Vampire enthusiast, frustration may ensue from the former of the two games due to the flawed logic that Vampires would safely be able to transport to a “Day Club” without dying from the sunlight.*

  • Alley Wallet Wise The financial literacy program affiliated with Alley Bank offers free online courses which cover banking, budgeting, credit scores, and more.

Sneak Peek at the Financial Literacy Track!

It’s surprising, sometimes frightening even, how little we really know about personal finance and money management, since most of us know close to nothing about sound practices beyond the basics.  In fact, most of what we do know is information that our friends and families have given us or that we have learned through our own research. Rarely does it come from any sort of formal education. When we consider how we can all benefit a bit more from a few lessons on financial literacy, it becomes clear just how important financial literacy is vital to an adult learners stability and progress.

The 29th Annual Florida Literacy Conference will hold over 60 sessions within 14 distinct tracks, including a first of its kind financial literacy track! For those interested in learning more about personal finance and sound money management, here’s a look at what the track has to offer so that you can set your conference schedule proactively.

Sessions include:

  • Financial Aid for the Nontraditional Student
    Did you know the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship can be awarded to GED students? This session covers avenues for funding higher education through federal, state, institutional, and local resources.
  • Money $ense
    How do you make sense out of money?  One of the ways is to look at your behavior, habits and past to determine why you use money in a certain way. This workshop explains how to educate your clients to understand and change their behavior.
  • Financial Literacy Resources for Adult Education
    There are many free resources for providing financial literacy in the Adult Education classroom. Receive sample brochures, website information  and the latest research/statistics for financial literacy.
  • Making Money Work for You
    This brief intro to financial literacy and consumer education is designed for teachers and tutors of ESOL and ABE students.  (Participants can also access this module via Florida TechNet’s “Moodle” trainings.)
  • Opening Doors to Home Ownership
    In this interactive session, we will share the Opening Doors to Home Ownership website designed for high school and adult learners.  The focus of this commercial-free website is to develop financial literacy through topics such as credit, budgeting, preparing for home ownership, and understanding mortgages.

Trying to imagine how adult learners manage financially, or rather how they don’t, can explain why learning even the most basic money management skills can greatly benefit the lives of our adult learners. Attend this track and bring back skills and practices your students that will immediately have an impact on their lives!

Susan Ruffins- Financial Literacy at the Academy of Finance

“Season of Giving” at the Academy of Finance

It’s great to be invited to guest blog for the Florida Literacy Coalition. We, Patricia Garfield, Alyson Amy Edge and I, are high school teachers working with teens in the area of financial literacy and economics at the Academy of Finance in Burbank, California. When January rolls around each year we take time to talk to our students about setting goals and incentives to help build a nest egg. This is both an easy and difficult thing to do.

Teens are acutely aware of the benefits of money and in fact, our students think about money a lot. What they don’t do is think about money in concrete ways. It’s all about “hey when I get to be rich like JayZ” or “when I grow up I’m going to have amazing Jimmy Choo’s”; abstract yearnings for a wealthy life without understanding that building wealth starts right now. So this year we challenged our students to identify the two easiest habits to grow their bank accounts. Here is what they came up with.

• Keep the change. One of the easiest forms of saving is simply collecting household change and putting it in a jar/piggy bank/shoe box, etc….. We love the electronic money jars out there (you can find them online at Amazon or at Target) that tell you exactly how much money you have saved so far. Teens should get in the habit of emptying their pockets, backpacks or purses of loose change each day and then dropping the coins into their bank. Each month they should empty their piggy bank and deposit the change into the checking account at the bank. After a few months, they’ll begin to see a pattern and be able to figure out just how much they can accumulate by December.

 Set some goals. How big do you want your nest egg to be by the end of the year? How much money do you think you can raise or make (or find – in the case of loose change)? We have students who just collect change, others who add some light recycling or babysitting to their schedules and still others who seek part time employment. While making money is good, students should also have a plan for their money. For example, one student set her financial savings goal at $500-$1,000  toward her Prom expenses and another $500 to build her savings account. In her words “For every dollar I make, I want to be able to spend half and save half. This way I can look forward to some fun shopping but also feel like I’m not just blowing it all”. We think that’s a nice balanced approach that can satisfy a teen’s urge to shop while helping them see that it is possible for them to start accumulating some real cash.

This is so simple and our students are already off to a great ‘moneywise’ year. We’ll be checking in with them to make sure they stay on track and encourage them along the way. We hope all our students end 2013 a little better-off than when they started!

Susan Ruffins is a high school teacher, presenter and educator at the Academy of Finance at Burbank High School in Burbank, California. She, along with her colleagues Patricia Garfield and Alyson Amy Edge, have written a parent/mentor and student handbook called “Time Worth Spending” available on Amazon and on their website

Online Holiday Shopping Safety Tips for Adult ELLs

With Black Friday officially marking the start of the holiday shopping season, tutors may want to encourage learners to use safe shopping practices this Winter. Black Friday shoppers have been pushing their carts with the mindset of a New York City taxi driver since before we can remember, but in recent years a new breed of shoppers have chosen to wait until Cyber Monday to purchase gifts without the typical stress of dealing with overcrowded malls or department stores.

Although it’s more convenient, online shopping can also be dangerous. As shoppers buy more of their gifts online, they must take precautions when sharing sensitive credit card information with the websites from which they are ordering.

Since online shopping is still somewhat of a novelty, even many people with intermediate and high levels of financial literacy may be unaware of how to protect themselves from the dangers of online shopping. That’s why it’s so important for tutors and teachers to share online shopping safety tips with their ELL or ESL learners! The links below are great resources that tutors can use in their lesson plans for a holiday-oriented financial literacy session.

MoneyTalks blog- Online Holiday Shopping Safety

Vermont IT Security- Online Holiday Shopping Tips

Smart About Money- Holiday Survival Guide

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy- General Holiday Shopping Tips

AsktheMoneyCoach- Best Credit Cards to Use During the Holiday Season

360 Degrees of Financial Literacy- Credit Card Pay off Tool

Phishing scams

A few years ago I got an email from a Nigerian business man saying that I had a great great uncle who was doing business with him and I needed to collect his inheritance of close to $5 million. All I needed to do was provide my checking account information. Most of us recognize that this is a scam, but on the other hand we probably think $5 million isn’t too shabby of a deal. The Nigerian letter scam is pretty well known ( it’s apparently the country’s 3rd largest export and scams 100s of people a day), but there are several other scams that get people on a daily basis. These are called phishing scams. So not only does a lesson on phishing and email scams play into a financial literacy lesson, but also a digital literacy for understanding trustworthy websites.

Here is some information on what you need to know about phishing scams from the National Consumers League:

How does phishing work?

  • The most common form of phishing is by email. Pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, or government agency, the sender asks to “confirm” your personal information for some made-up reason. Typically, the email contains a link to a phony Web site that looks just like the real thing. You enter your personal information on the Web site — and send it into the hands of identity thieves.
  • Phishers also use the phone to hunt for victims’ personal information. Some pose as employers and call or send emails to people who have listed themselves on job search Web sites.

How can you tell if the person or company who contacted you is legitimate or a con artist?

  • Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly and asks for your personal information. It’s a warning sign that something is “phishy.” Legitimate companies and agencies don’t operate that way.
  • Don’t click on links in emails that ask you to provide personal information. To check whether an email or call is really from the company or agency, contact it directly by phone or online. If you don’t have the telephone number, get it from the phone book, directory assistance, or the Internet. Use a search engine to find the official Web site;
  • Job seekers should also verify the person’s identity before providing personal information to someone claiming to be a prospective employer.

What should you do if you got hooked by a phishing scam?

  • If you provided account numbers, PINs, or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with which you have those accounts immediately.
  • Put a “fraud alert” on your files at the credit reporting bureaus. For information about how to do that and other advice for ID theft victims, contact the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft  Clearinghouse at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or toll-free, 877-438-4338. The TDD number is 202-326-2502.
  • Even if you didn’t get hooked, you should report phishing to company or agency that was being impersonated and to the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center, www.fraud.org or toll-free 800-876-7060. The TDD number is 202-835-0778.

For more information on scams or fraud related to literacy, check out our website! 

Top Stories in Literacy: July 2

Top Stories in LiteracyWomen’s Financial Confidence Falters
A year after women started to close the financial literacy gap with men, their financial knowledge and confidence are waning again. Women are especially falling behind when it comes to managing money and investing, says a study released Thursday on the financial literacy gender gap by education firm Financial Finesse.

Running: Raising funds for literacy still the goal of newly-renamed 5K
Known as the Run for Reading in its first three years, the Gulf Coast Classic still raises funds for the Literacy Council Gulf Coast, the largest such organization in the country with more than 3,100 students and 700 volunteer tutors.

Slow Down Tuition Hikes
This week, the Board of Governors approved a slew of more tuition increases, though it was less generous than in the past. Even so, it will cost plenty more to attend a state public university.

Health Nuts Media Releases Animated Asthma Series in Spanish
The seven-episode series, already valued by healthcare providers as a teaching tool for kids with asthma, is now available to millions of Spanish speakers who suffer from the chronic pulmonary condition.

Financial Literacy and the Khan Academy

Do you ever feel like you aren’t the right person to teach financial literacy because you have many questions? I definitely feel that way. Luckily, Kahn Academy has videos to help answer the questions you don’t know how to. Watch these relatively short videos to learn more about topics that can help your students!

Intro to Interest: Simple vs. Compounded

What is inflation?

Renting vs. Buying a home (Heads up, he uses big numbers to make the math easier to understand)

Personal Bankruptcy

Creating a Financial Literacy Program: Being a VISTA and the Importance of Community Connections

Hank Hollins

I’m the AmeriCorps VISTA for the Literacy Council of Sarasota. For me, being a VISTA has been all about community connections. Having a plan about what I wanted to accomplish and sharing that plan with grant-makers and community leaders has led to a great financial literacy program. Now I’m there each week as the learners enjoy the resources which my service has helped provide. It’s extremely gratifying and fun to boot!

I had heard about the great success of programs which paired money management education with matched emergency savings programs. Financial education is combined with a free savings account and what the learner saves is matched up to a certain amount at the end. I decided that this was a combination with great appeal.

I first approached CredAbility (www.credability.org). They were very eager to help teach the workshops. As one community connection leads to another, my CredAbility representative passed along the name of a local Regions Bank associate she knew to be very involved in financial literacy and actively seeking non-profits to partner with. I talked to him, and he wanted to join us on this project: Regions would donate free savings accounts.

It was around this time I applied for my first grant. To my admitted surprise, I obtained a grant for the workshops portion of the program right out of the gate. The first grant I’d ever applied for! I was, however, only halfway there. The local foundation gave us money for the workshops but not the matching funds. I tried numerous things, calling local businesses and researching grants, exploring various ways of finding this money.

The connections I had already made, though, were where the solution lay. I reached out to my partner at Regions and asked if they might want to become more involved. He put me in touch with head of Community Affairs for the whole Tampa Bay region. We were both a little nervous, reaching so high up the chain of command, but it went wonderfully! He was very interested in our program, and Regions agreed to provide a $100 match to each of our learners for our twelve-week, twelve-class program. We were ready to go!

Now the classes are underway. The learners were given an introduction to banking during the first class, and learned the importance of setting financial goals the next. Next week, we will be covering the importance of paying yourself first. There will be classes on tracking expenses, budgeting, credit, investments, etc.

The classes are so much fun! We laugh and learn in the common room of one our Housing Authority complexes—yet another partnership—and I couldn’t be more satisfied. The most important part to me, though, was what I learned about community connections. I started with an idea and connected the dots between funders, community leaders, educators, and learners. In a way, I’m proud of this program as my own, but it really isn’t—it could go on without me. It belongs to the community.