Tag Archives: Financial Education

America Saves. NOVA Saves. Are You Saving? Set Goals. Take the Pledge…

This week is America Saves week.
Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) Arlington coordinates the America Saves/ Northern Virginia Saves campaign (www.northernvirginiasaves.org).

Visit  www.northernvirginiasaves.org to set your goals and make your pledge to save today!

In celebration of America Saves/Northern Virginia Saves week, VA Cooperative Extension Arlington collaborated with Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and Marymount University to host a series of “Lunch and Learn” professional development sessions.

Informative topics and speakers were:

  • Understanding Credit, Susan Shockey, National Program Leader at NIFA/USDA
  • The Truth about Retirement Plans & IRA’s, Ed Schweitzer, CFP(R) of Edelman Financial Services
  • Goal Oriented Savings, Momodou Bojang, Financial Advisor with ACFCU

Upcoming VCE Arlington Financial Education events:

Credit Report Reviews at DHS
VCE Arlington Financial Educators will offer credit report reviews through April at Alexandria DHS offices (703-746-5700) and Arlington DHS offices (703-228-1300).
Please contact your DHS office for days and times.

Finance Events in the Schools
VCE Arlington Financial Educators continue to  host several Reality Store and Kids Marketplace finance simulation events in Arlington schools.

Financial Education Seminars
Check the VCE Arlington website calendar and your local library calendars for upcoming financial seminars presented by VCE Arlington in April and May.


New Year, New Financial Program Offerings

As we move into 2014 we are pleased to offer many new financial education programs, along with old favorites. On January 22 we will start the ninth year of offering Money Talk: A financial course for women at the Arlington Central Library. This five-week course provides sessions on financial basics, insurance, investing, retirement planning, and planning for future life events. This popular course has occasionally drawn comments from men along the lines of “why are we being left out?” Thanks to volunteer Megan Kuhn, the gents no longer have to sit on the sidelines. Megan started a co-ed Money Talk course on Jan. 15. It runs five weeks as well and takes place at Calvary United Methodist Church in Crystal City.

In October we trained a new corps of Master Financial Education Volunteers and they have been enthusiastically creating new presentations. The team of David N., Dana, and Janet have developed a presentation for high school seniors and their parents on financial skills that all students should have as they head to college. They will be starting to offer this presentation to Wakefield, Washington-Lee, and Yorktown parents and students in February.

Other volunteer teams are working on programs for recently divorced women, reverse mortgages, and financial education for veterans. We are happy to be able to expand our offerings to serve other target audiences that have not gotten much attention from financial educators in the past.

In February we will start our fifth year of providing one-on-one financial counseling at free tax clinics in Arlington and Alexandria. These services will be available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings through April 15. They will be followed by a series of money management classes for recipients of the services.

We also continue with our financial simulations for youth. On January 14th we conducted a Kids Marketplace activity for 50 students at Ashlawn Elementary School. On the 24th and 31st we will be at Kenmore Middle School to conduct a Reality Store with all of the 8th graders. We will also conduct a Reality Store on March 1 for the local chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

In April, be on the lookout for the new Ask a Financial Expert program at the Arlington Central Library. Our volunteers will be available to meet with people one on one and answer their budgeting, credit/debt, saving, record keeping, and basic investing information questions. The library will sign up and pre-screen patrons for this service. This is an exciting expansion of our long-running partnership with Arlington libraries.

Also in the spring we’ll once again offer our Spring Personal Finance seminar series at Arlington Central Library. If you have a topic that you’d like to see covered in this series, please let Jennifer know by dropping her a note at jabel@vt.edu.

Wishing everyone a prosperous and financially healthy year!


New Master Financial Education Volunteers

On October 26 twelve new Master Financial Education Volunteers completed their training and are ready to begin helping with financial education programs in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. Bill, Christy, Dana, Dave, David, Evelyn, Michelle, Patrick, Shauna, Tiffany, Vera, and Ximena join more than 200 trained financial volunteers who provide one-on-one financial counseling to individuals and families, help to teach classes on budgeting, debt management, and saving strategies, and help with the youth financial simulations that we do in the elementary, middle, and high schools.

The new volunteers have already leapt into their volunteer roles. Shauna and Evelyn taught a class on budgeting and saving to a group at the Nauck Community Center. Bill and Patrick will be teaching a class on Nov. 16 about credit and debt at the same location. Many of the volunteers have signed up to help with the Kids Marketplace and Reality Store events that we’ll be doing at Carlin Springs Elementary School and Arlington Mill High School Continuation Program in the coming weeks. Christy is working on setting up a series of classes on money management for recently divorced individuals. Vera is working on a program for veterans. Dave and Dana are going to be working with a previously trained volunteer—Janet—to put together a financial education program for teens who are about to complete high school and head to college.

We are grateful to have this new cohort of volunteers and are excited about their level of enthusiasm. If you are interested in becoming a Master Financial Education Volunteer or know someone who would be, please have them contact jabel@vt.edu. The next training for new volunteers will be held in April.

VCE Arlington Welcomes New Staff Member

On October 10 Deb Toms-Helm began as the new Financial Education Program Associate in the Arlington VCE office. Deb takes over the position that was formerly held by Wendy Peichel before she moved to Minnesota. Deb is not new to VCE; she has been serving as a Master Financial Education Volunteer and in that role has provided financial counseling to individuals, helped with our Reality Store and Kids Marketplace financial simulations for youth, and has taught money management classes.

Deb has an MBA and a professional background in consumer products marketing. In her position as Financial Education Program Associate she will be coordinating the financial counseling piece of our program, helping to arrange continuing education opportunities for volunteers, helping to coordinate money management classes in the community, and assisting with spreading the word about our financial education programs. Deb can be reached at dthelm@vt.edu; 703-228-6421.

The Financial Education Program Associate position is a half time, 20 hour/week position that is grant funded. We currently have funding for the position through 2014 and are waiting for news on two grants that would extend it to 2016.

The next time you are in the VCE—Arlington office, please stop by to welcome Deb!

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Teaching and Learning

By Jackie Rivas, Master Financial Education Volunteer

VCE’s financial literacy classes offer opportunities not only to teach others about personal financial management, but also provide an opportunity to learn about techniques and cultures.  I recently taught the financial literacy series at Virginia Gardens in Spanish to a group of Central American and Mexican immigrants.  In one session we discussed the importance of reviewing your bank statements on a regular basis.  A participant shared with the group how she was surprised to learn that she had insufficient funds in her checking account.  She was sure she

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had made sufficient deposits to cover her expenses.  At the teller window she reviewed her statement and found that a magazine that she thought she had canceled had continued to withdraw funds from her account monthly over the past two years.  She called the magazine right there at the window and although she normally has a hard time saying no made it very clear that her subscription had ended.  We also talked about managing banking fees and charges.  The participants compared the various costs of checking accounts, minimum balances, check-writing charges, late fees and fines.  They were able to share their experiences regarding different banks and checking account plans and where to get the best deal.

But I also learned from my students.  They taught me about a technique for saving money that is quite common in Central America, Mexico and among immigrants in the US who have limited access to the banking system, called the Tanda.  One of my students explained how she has trouble saving money because she finds it difficult to resist the temptation to spend.  But the Tanda works for her.  She used it to save the $4,000 she needed to pay the hospital expenses for the birth of her child.  She planned several months ahead of the delivery date.  In the Tanda, a group of persons with a desire to save a specified amount of money agree to pool their money over a specific time period and each week someone from the group receives the pooled funds.  For example, to obtain $4,000 a group of sixteen persons would contribute $250 weekly for sixteen weeks.  Each week someone within the group receives $4,000.  The payout order could be determined by drawing numbers from a hat or by the coordinator of the Tanda.  Of course there are many dangers in this system.  It requires a lot of trust among the participants.  Someone could run off with their payout early in the game, never to be seen again.  But that is where a sense of community works to discipline members.  There also is no interest paid on the principal and no opportunity for the beauty of compounding interest.  But for those who might find it difficult to obtain a loan from a bank, it is an alternative  method for obtaining credit.  Teaching the financial literacy classes not only provides a forum through which to help others learn how to better manage their money, but it also presents the opportunity to learn how other cultures meet the financial needs of their community.

Why Wait?

By Mohna Shah, Master Financial Education Volunteer

I love the number of websites and services devoted to getting women involved in personal finance. But I recently found myself at odds with an article on one such site that suggested people learn about investing in their 20s, ramp up their investments and contribute to retirement plans in their 30s, then increase the amount of retirement savings in their 40s, and so forth. That may work for people who live in areas with a low cost of living and who are not carrying much debt. But that’s a tough road to take in the metro DC area. I’ve watched many of my friends spend their 20s repaying their student loans while incurring credit card debt to keep up with the cost of living on entry-level salaries. By the time they have paid off their debt and are earning enough money to pocket some of it at the end of the month, they are in their early 30s and are just learning to create a habit of saving. Work and family consumes most people at that age, so learning about investing falls pretty low on the priority list.

the time is nowFor my friends who are in their 20s and 30s, I have recommended following all of those suggestions in order but ASAP, ideally in 5 years or less. Learn about financial planning now, whether it’s the Money Talk series through Virginia Cooperative Extension, a quick read of personal finance articles on eXtension.org, or a personal finance book. At this point, it’s an hour a week class or 15 minutes, 3 – 4 days a week during your lunch break or commute. At this rate, you’ll probably be able to generate some executable ideas for yourself in a month or two. Make small changes each month or each season to speed up debt repayments or increase savings. One of my friends was stunned to see how much money she saved by taking her lunch to work. (The weight loss was a nice by-product.) I had a similar reaction when I stopped taking cabs and relied only on the metro or my own feet for transportation. Neither of these actions had any noticeable impact on our social lives or overall happiness.  As soon as that debt is paid, speak to a human resources representative about contributing to a retirement plan at work. Don’t worry if it’s $100 a month to start.* If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, talk to a bank about opening up an IRA. Applying the small changes theory, increase the contribution by $50 each year. (After five years, you will have contributed $12,000 along with any investment gains or losses. ) The point is, saving a little now is a lot easier than catching up later.

Also, while we can’t rewind our own clocks, we have an obligation to prepare the next generation. The biggest influence on my financial behavior is probably having a savings account where I could save a percentage of my birthday/tooth fairy/report card money. I felt so grown up when I received the monthly statement, and I was giddy when my balance crossed the $100 mark. At a later age, I could save part of my weekly allowance (which I only received if I completed my assigned chores – talk about strict parents!). It helped instill the notion of saving as an end in itself, not a means to buying the next teen idol’s album.

The sum of birthday money and allowances and the money saved by choosing public transportation and brown bag lunches may not appear to make a significant dent in the cost of a college education. But the lessons of saving and thoughtful financial decision-making can be worth just as much.

*If possible, start with a contribution large enough to get the full employer match for a 401(k).

Thinking Outside the Box: Savings

By Joan C. Smith, Master Financial Education Volunteer

As a volunteer financial counselor with the Alexandria/Arlington, we have many opportunities to serve the residents of Arlington County and Alexandria city. I recently had the privilege to speak to a group of residents of an apartment complex in Arlington. We taught on the subject “Pay Yourself First” as part of a Money Management series under the FDIC’s Money Smart program.

We were discussing a section about goal-setting and various ways to save. Aside from many common ways to save: i.e.: payroll deduction, opening a savings account, etc., one participant gave an interesting suggestion that I had never heard of.

Multiple money jarsMany have heard of and some of us already practice the idea of putting loose change in a container/jar and allowing it to build up and once it builds, one can use coin holders to place coins in and take those to their local banker or use a (free) coin counter machine. This participant had a totally “non traditional” method that worked for her. What this participant did (and continues to do) is she had a goal of saving up for a vacation for her family. She placed several (not one) jars in various places in the apartment. She wanted her kids to be an active part of this savings endeavor.

She started one year out. By the time the year rolled around; between several jars of “loose change,” she had saved about $500 in one year!

Unfortunately, her husband fell ill and the monies saved had to be used towards his medical bills.

I commended her nevertheless because:

1)      A goal was set
2)      Even though she had to use it for an emergency and forfeit a family vacation, at least she didn’t go into further debt when her spouse fell ill.
3)      The fact that she even had the funds for this unfortunate emergency saved her possible hundreds if not thousands in collection bills, late charges, and possible ruined credit.

What about you? Are you saving your “loose” change? Can you clean out an extra peanut butter (or almond butter) jar and use it in addition to the jar you may already have?

If this isn’t thinking outside the box to save, then what is?

Kids Learn About Spending Money at Kids Marketplace

Last Monday we ran a Kids Marketplace simulation with 23 kids attending a summer program at Arlington’s Patrick Henry Elementary School.  KM Patrick Henry 2013 003 The kids enjoyed chatting with each station’s volunteers, who either coaxed them into spending wisely or into buying more than they needed.  KM Patrick Henry 2013 001Some kids found they could afford multiple pets, while others shared housing to reduce expenses.  One kid saved nearly 50% of his doctor’s salary.

For more pictures, visit our Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/VceFinancialEducationProgramArlingtonCounty

If you would like to organize a Kids Marketplace at your elementary school, please contact Jennifer Abel at jabel@vt.edu or 703-228-6417.

Money Talk Course Kicks Off a Five-Week Series

Last night we kicked off our first class in the Money Talk: A Financial Course for Women five-week series at Arlington Central Library.  We had 34 participants attend the class on Financial Basics, where the instructor covered topics including values and goal setting, budgeting, calculating your net worth, and credit management.

P1060291The participants posed many of their questions and concerns during the session, including:

–          What is a SMART goal?

–          Is there a way I can get my credit score for free?

–          How do I correct an error on my credit report?

–          I have a year left on my mortgage.  If I can swing it, should I pay it off now, or should I make my normal monthly payments and take the tax benefit next year?

Each attendee had the option of purchasing a workbook with helpful resources and worksheets to accompany the course lectures.  At the end of the session, one participant remarked that she normally hates talking about financial matters, but this class made the content much more enjoyable.

For more information on this series or other programs, contact Jennifer Abel at jabel@vt.edu or 703-228-6417.