Partners, Volume 13, Number 2, 2003
Partners, Volume 13, Number 2, 2003
|Coalitions Tackle the Challenges of Financial Education|
Financial aptitude is a critical skill for all members of our society. Throughout the Sixth Federal Reserve District, public and private organizations have formed statewide coalitions to promote the importance of financial education for both adults and children. Working in partnership they are helping to make education and training programs more effective.
Coalitions are creative and effective
Creative partnerships that engage the strengths of individual organizations and optimize limited resources make financial education programs more successful. Financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, educators, government officials and other public and private agencies can join together to realize their shared goal of improving the financial health of their individual constituencies and their communities as a whole.
Although each statewide coalition on financial education has a unique set of partners, public agencies, financial institutions, and community organizations usually play a leading role. Convinced that a coalition can raise public awareness more effectively than an individual organization, coalition partners often provide training and resources for delivering financial education in addition to collaborating on promotion and outreach. They can also share research and data collection responsibilities.
In some instances, financial education is the primary mission of a coalition, but it may also be offered in conjunction with other asset building strategies. For instance, a coalition focused on administering Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), promoting the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) may find that financial education is crucial for the success of their primary mission. Statewide coalitions also serve as advocates for financial education in the schools and promote policies that have a positive impact on an individuals asset-building capacity.
The Atlanta Fed lends a hand
The Federal Reserve System is committed to developing greater public awareness about personal finance and helping consumers make informed financial decisions. In the Sixth Districts branch offices, the Feds Regional Community Development Managers work with financial institutions, schools and nonprofit organizations to build or enhance personal finance programs. These are often designed for youth and low- and moderate-income consumers.
Each of our regional managers conducts train-the-trainer sessions using the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations MoneySmart curriculum. These workshops instruct bankers, teachers and community development representatives to become personal finance educators. Participants who successfully complete the course can then teach their constituents about basic bank products and services, consumer rights, credit issues, taxation and other personal finance issues.
Regional Community Development Managers have also facilitated the development of several state-level coalitions by convening the partners, determining program goals and identifying potential financial resources. They provide ongoing assistance by ensuring that members of the statewide coalitions are represented on financial education committees and by offering one-on-one technical assistance with curriculum design and program evaluation. Community Affairs and other Federal Reserve staff are currently working on local programs with Jump$tart Coalition, Junior Achievement, America Saves and the National Academy Foundation.
Coalitions vary but share the same goals
Though affiliates of coalitions vary from state to state, all include financial education for youth, adults and families as a critical component of their asset building strategies. Each southeastern state has a branch of Jump$tart, a national organization that focuses on financial education in schools and the financial aptitude of youth.
In Tennessee and Georgia, statewide coalitions are affiliated with America Saves. Tennessee Saves and Georgia Saves emphasize building wealth and encouraging savings through adult financial education and cultural marketing. In Louisiana and Florida statewide IDA coalitions include financial education in their promotion of the IDA concept and technical assistance programs.
Jump$tart coalitions are relatively new in the Sixth District. In the first year of activity, they are focusing primarily on developing partnerships, conducting outreach and raising public awareness. Several coalitions are currently organizing training workshops for educators and other service providers interested in delivering financial education.
Incorporating financial education in the schools is a primary goal for Jump$tart. Louisiana recently passed legislation to make financial education a requirement in K-12 schools. In Tennessee, the State Board of Education is considering revision of its curriculum to include financial education.
Georgia Saves and Tennessee Saves are also new coalitions in their first year of operation. In addition to identifying partners, they are training wealth-building coaches and developing marketing strategies for a savings campaign. Georgia Saves has the ambitious goal of attracting 3,000 savers across the state.
One of the most established coalitions in the Sixth District, The IDA Collaborative of Louisiana (IDACOLA) originated in New Orleans and grew to become a statewide program. IDACOLA, in partnership with Louisiana Jump$tart, has established adult financial education standards and developed an appropriate curriculum using FDICs MoneySmart program. The coalition has thus far trained 30 individuals using the new curriculum.
In Florida and Mississippi, active statewide IDA coalitions serve as networking and advocacy groups for local providers. Both coalitions include financial education subcommittees that are identifying best practices in financial education to guide IDA providers as they develop their programs.
Since state-level coalitions in the Sixth District are newly established, the measurable results of the programs are limited. However, the public increasingly recognizes the importance of financial education, and the coalitions are successfully attracting the support of a wide range of partners. Working together, with the Federal Reserves active support, these partners are building the foundation for better financial health among the regions youth, individual consumers and families.
By Jessica LeVeen, regional community development manager in the Atlanta Fed?s Nashville Branch.