Financial Literacy: Training for a Lifetime (Fall 2014 Newsletter)

Posted 09/26/2014

Enhanced financial literacy has become an ever more critical component of Catholic Charities of Tennessee's efforts to help its clients break the cycle of poverty.

Participation in a 4-session financial literacy class is a requirement for receiving any financial assistance from the agency's North Nashville Outreach program.

"Class participation is treated as the basis for a pledge we will make to provide bill payment assistance," explained case manager Kylie Grae.

"We start with a short pretest of 6 basic questions, so that front-end knowledge of financial matters can be determined," Financial Literacy trainer Davina Kraeger said. "We end the class with the students taking a similar test. This allows them to see how far they have come by participating in the class."

Kraeger uses a 4-step curriculum developed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

"We start with an evaluation of each student's current situation for income and expenses...what's coming in and what's going out. Since the people have come to North Nashville Outreach for help, there's usually more going out than coming in."

The second step involves developing a basic financial recovery plan which will be followed by its implementation. The final step involves evaluating and, as appropriate, adjusting the plan to maximize its potential for success.

Each class can accommodate up to 10 students and each session lasts for an hour. The course is completed over a 10-day period. A Regions Bank representative is typically invited to address each group to clear up misunderstandings that many of the students have about bank services. Between October 2013 and July 2014, 117 students participated in the class.

Kraeger teaches in a very engaging, conversational manner, quickly putting class participants at ease. This helps to encourage group participation.

The examples she uses are "real world" in nature: groceries, eating out, utilities, rent, credit card purchases, and, how to save money.

"I like seeing the process work, seeing it in their eyes at that moment when the light bulb in their head goes on and they get it," she said.

"They come in with down faces because they have to be there. Then, when they understand that they really can do something about their situation, the frowns turn to smiles."

One recent client, a student concurrently pursuing MD and Ph. D. degrees locally, was about to have her lights turned off. She turned to North Nashville Outreach as a "next option" for not having that occur. Being required to attend a financial literacy class was not something she expected to face.

Her experience, however, was very positive. "It was worth the time invested," she said. "Having the class over four sessions helped to reinforce the information."

Over at the South Nashville Family Resource Center, Refugee Services staff member Hem Kharel, Job Skills coach at OutSOURCE ReSOURCE (the Job Training Center), teaches recently arrived refugees financial literacy.

The program focus is ultimately the same; for a number of reasons, though, Kharel's approach is different.

He starts with the basics during his 2 hour classes. Like Kraeger, his classes can accommodate up to 10 students per session.

"In the first and second week, I teach our clients to count, add and subtract on a calculator, write U.S. currency and understand the value of money, track income and expenditures, and begin personal finance planning," said Kharel.

During the third and fourth weeks, the focus is banking and the classes are taught by a SunTrust Bank official. "He teaches our clients about the importance of banking, writing checks, depositing checks, making deposits at an ATM, keeping a check register, and credit," he added.

As with the North Nashville classes, knowledge growth during the class is tracked by comparing pre-class and post-class test responses.

"We are seeing positive results," Kharel continued. "Most of the people are able to plan their finances, they have bank accounts, and they are doing banking transactions by themselves."

Click here for the entire Catholic Charities of Tennessee Fall 2014 Newsletter.

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Nashville, TN 37214
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