It is often implied that families experiencing poverty make bad financial decisions--that if they were better money managers, they would not be in poverty at all. This harmful narrative underlies too much of the financial education offered (sometimes mandated) to these same families. Financial education can better help people achieve their financial goals by prioritizing social connection, creativity, and confidence. Financial education optimized for these experiences can counter the shame and embarrassment that often accompanies talking about money when you don't have any.
We learned these lessons as part pf three year project in Washington State, launched in 2016, to understand how caregivers think about and act on savings goals. Working with the Department of Commerce, we reached caregivers through the Community Jobs program (a transitional jobs program within Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). We engaged more than 300 caregivers, who we found to be fiercely resilient, unique, and hardworking as they sought to build financial stability and control.
Released in July 2019, the Savings Pilot Evaluation Report (July 2019) details the eleven month pilot in seven sites.
The creative ideas and inspiration of these families and agency staff led the design of Money Powerup Packs. These offer a new approach to financial education that creates a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Caregivers can talk about money in a low-pressure, social setting and explore new savings tactics that work uniquely for them. Through these experiences, caregivers grow in their belief that they are skillful savers with valuable information to share with their children, families, and communities.
The Prosperity Agenda has recently received a three-year investment from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to replicate and scale Money Powerup Packs in other markets. We're excited to develop new partnerships to bring more person-centered financial conversations to families across the country. If you are interested in learning more or partnering with us, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work would not have been possible with out the experience, expertise, and efforts of our partners. We thank them for the contribution to the field and everyone who will benefit.
- YWCA of Greater Seattle (Seattle, WA)
- Lower Columbia Community Action Program (Longview, WA)
- People for People (Yakima, WA)
- Northwest Community Action Center (Toppenish, WA)
- Coastal Community Action Program (Aberdeen, WA)
- Partners in Careers (Vancouver, WA)
- Career Path Services (South King County, WA)
- Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
- Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families
- Washington State Department of Commerce
- Dr. William Vesneski, University of Washington
- W.K.Kellogg Foundation