It is for this reason that Boston ABCD's Asset Development Program used some of its stimulus funds to develop a money management course.
"People who are living under 200 percent of the poverty level learn how to save money and fix their credit ratings," says Danielle Banks who was hired with stimulus funds as the financial education coordinator to teach the classes. "For some people, managing money doesn't come naturally. For our people every dollar counts."
Banks' course runs for six weeks with participants meeting once a week for two hours. In the first four sessions, Banks says, she helps students track their expenses, figure out where their money is going and then develop a budget. The students learn how to maintain records and build up emergency funds. "After two to three weeks we see people change how they spend their money,' says Banks. "They realize after they lost their job that they need an emergency fund. They thought they didn't have $20 to save but they do."
Banks says the course is incredibly relevant to the current economic times
According to Banks, the course changes the way the students think about money. "We see tons of success stories," says Banks. "They were defeated and then they walk out with a spending plan and a budget. We are getting people to think about their finances. People are much more optimistic when they leave."
Many of the students, says Banks, come back by week five or six asking for more budget worksheets. "They want to keep going. I'm really impressed with how they want to make changes," she says. "Many of the participants are 'un-bankable' and we work on how they can become a 'bankable' customer."
For the students who want to continue, Boston ABCD offers financial coaches who help participants stick to their budget.
The course also involves informing participants about services that are available to them at little or no cost. For instance, says Banks, many of the participants didn't realize that they could get their tax returns done for free at anti poverty agencies. "We are getting basic financial information into people's hands," she says.
"We see people changing their attitudes about money," she says. "That was the appeal for me."