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Money Well-Spent: Requiring a Personal Finance Course for High School Graduation

Posted by tedwards on 10/20/2014

In a national survey, only 33 percent of adults over the age of 50 could correctly answer three questions testing basic knowledge of interest rates, inflation and financial markets.[i] And despite the widespread advertisement and usage of credit cards by young adults, only 48 percent of high school seniors know that paying only the minimum balance each month will result in higher finance charges than paying the full account balance.[ii] This data underscores what Southern has found as it works to create economic opportunities and improve net worth. Households with low levels of financial literacy tend to borrow at high interest rates, acquire few assets, and not plan for retirement.[iii] Further, lack of financial knowledge is especially acute among young adults. This lack of financial knowledge is often tied to financial insecurity, and often stressful situations in which families do not have enough money to meet daily expenses and/or plan for the future. At Southern, we believe this is a problem, with a very reasonable public policy solution.

A growing body of research has revealed that financial education in schools can have a significant impact on encouraging healthy financial behaviors later in life. For example, college students from states that require a mandatory financial education course as a condition of high school graduation are more likely to create and adhere to a budget and less likely to engage in risky credit behaviors.[iv] Requiring financial education to be taught in high school is important as there is a strong correlation between high levels of educational attainment and increased financial market participation and decreased chances for bankruptcy, foreclosure, or loan default. Further, it is greater general education that drives changes in savings or investment behavior, rather than increased labor earnings.[v]

In Arkansas, the percentage of financially insecure households is higher than the national rate. Arkansans have a very low savings rate – more than half (51.9 percent) of Arkansas households live in liquid asset poverty, meaning they cannot subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income. In addition, over a quarter (28.1 percent) of Arkansas households are classified as underbanked, signifying the use of high-cost credit from service providers outside the financial mainstream.[vi] There is good news for the Natural State, however. Arkansas currently has content standards for high school personal finance courses, but the bad news is that the state does not require students to take a personal finance course.[vii]

Presently, twenty-eight states in the U.S. have implemented personal finance courses in their high school curricula, including bordering states Missouri and Texas. In the 2013 Arkansas Legislative Session, Rep. Duncan Baird introduced a bill advocating for economic literacy and personal finance education in Arkansas public schools. The bill died, but it did not contain an implementation plan for high school personal finance education. For the 2015 Arkansas Legislative Session, Arkansas policymakers must look at the benefits of programs that increase financial literacy as a means to improving financial decision-making. The more Arkansans that are self-sufficient and financially stable, the less of a need for public benefit and income support programs.

Providing a basic financial foundation for high school students is imperative for their future financial success and stability. Arkansans need to be well-equipped to make informed financial decisions for themselves and their families to achieve economic security. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Southern is committed to continuing financial education and improving financial stability through our personalized credit counseling and group financial education programs. We invite you to learn more about our efforts to create economic opportunities for people in rural communities by contacting Meredith Covington, Policy & Communications Manager, at

[i] Harnisch, T. (2010). Boosting financial literacy in America: A role for state colleges and universities. Perspectives. American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Available at

[ii] Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Finance Literacy. (2008). 2008 Survey for personal finance literacy among students. Available

[iii] Cole, S., & Shastry, G.K. (2010). Is high school the right time to teach savings behavior? The effect of financial education and mathematics courses on savings. Department of Economics, Wellesley College. Available at

[iv] Gutter, M. (2009). Financial capability of college students from states with varying financial education policies. National Endowment for Financial Education. Available at

[v] Cole, S., Paulson, A., & Shastry, G.K. (2013). Smart money? The effect of education on financial outcomes. Harvard Business School. Available at

[vi] CFED. (2013). Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. Available at

[vii] CFED. (2012). Financial education in schools. Available at

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Updates From Louisville

Posted by tlentz on 10/16/2014

It has been a little while since we posted new information - but that doesn't mean we've been sitting on our laurels! In August, Bank On Louisville celebrated its 4th Anniversary with 100 of its closest friends who came to help celebrate our successes. Since launching in 2010, the BOL partners have worked together to connect 16,143 unbanked individuals to new accounts. Seventy-percent of those accounts remain open with an average quarterly balance of $1,283. In addition, over the last year 12 of our partners helped to provide financial education to 6,532 participants.

At that event we also launched our new Bank On Louisville app, providing users with guides to financial education and to banks and credit unions near them. To try out the app on your mobile browser go to

In September, LMCS participated in a pilot and provided feedback on CFED's Financial Capability Integration Toolkit. Components of the toolkit were demonstrated to 50 social service providers representing 35 area nonprofits.

And this month we will be holding a demonstration workshop on our new "Credit As An Asset" workbook. This new workbook is for people who want to gain new information and tools to build or rebuild good credit. Thanks to CFED for their support in this effort and to CBA (Credit Builders Alliance) for their guidance.

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Fifth Third Bank's E-Bus Tour Kickoff at Crisis Assistance Ministry

Posted by rlynch on 10/14/2014

On October 2, 2014 Fifth Third’s E-Bus Tour kicked at Crisis Assistance Ministry in partnership with The Urban League of Central Carolinas. The E- Bus was staffed by counselors from our friends at Alliance Credit Counseling, and Community Link who were able to bring resources to the citizens in our communities who are often times under served. Participating in this project allowed Crisis Assistance Ministry to be a part of providing opportunities for families to educate themselves on how to make informed financial decisions and access sound financial products that give people the opportunity to be financially secure. By fostering best practices around financial stability we seek to alleviate poverty within our communities.

Fifth Third’s E-Bus staffed by their community partners were able to provide an array of services including:

• Speak with credit counselors to get private education on their personal finances

• View credit reports and credit scores

• Receive money management and budgeting tips

• Get information on affordable home loans and refinancing and much more

For the kickoff, Fifth Third Bank:

• Served More than 100 visitors

• Conducted 96 free credit counseling sessions

• Provided 4 Job-seeker Toolkit referrals

• Completed 24 banking follow-up appointments

Below you can check out information on the organizations that helped bring this great opportunity to customers of Crisis Assistance Ministry and Urban League of Central Carolinas. To learn ore about these organizations click on their respective link below






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Get Banked!

Posted by acoday on 10/13/2014

Tags: Get Banked, Win-Win, Qualified Referrals, Relationship and Communication Accountability

Bank On Seattle-King County is a major public-private initiative of the Financial Empowerment Network | Seattle-King County (Network) to connect people without bank accounts to affordable mainstream financial services, including checking, savings, credit, and financial education opportunities.

Bank On Seattle-King County is providing strategies under the umbrella of the “Get Banked!” campaign to promote asset building and meet the needs of low-income unbanked and under banked households.

“Get Banked!” offers a pilot project that marries the products and services of our Bank On partner, KeyBank with the financial counseling services and tracking of the Seattle Financial Empowerment Center identified service plan areas (banking, savings, credit and debt). Both serve low-income households and with cross-referrals offered will play an important role in building the long-term household financial capability of Seattle residents, which includes access to mainstream banking products and services.

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Some say $10.10 would hurt business, but most business people disagree

Posted by dlevine on 10/08/2014

US businesses are in. The American public is in. So what’s next on the minimum wage, Congress?

It has long been the argument from some voices in business—or at least their Washington lobbyists and the Members of Congress who listen to them—that raising the minimum wage would hurt business—and workers—by eliminating jobs.

However, the stark reality is that most business owners in America don’t agree with this idea. In fact, poll after poll shows that most business people think it’s well past time for an increase in the minimum wage.

Indeed, 61 percent of small business owners support a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, according to a recent poll by Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. And a Harris survey released last week found that 62 percent of employers, including 58 percent of senior business leaders, think that the minimum wage should be raised from where it’s been stuck at $7.25 per hour for more than seven years.

These numbers are only slightly lower than the views of the American people. Recent polls have found that between 73 percent and 80 percent of Americans– including majorities among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents– support an increase.

Despite the overwhelming support of most US businesses, as well as the American public, the job-loss canard was again trotted out by the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, and a handful of other industry associations earlier this year when they wrote to every Senator that increasing the federal minimum wagecould truly be the difference between continuing to operate and going out of business. For the employees it attempts to help, it may be the difference between a job and unemployment.

$10.10 is the minimum wage level proposed by President Obama and in legislation by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA.) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA). It’s a wage that would boost the incomes of more than 25 million US workers, one-third of whom have families; over 14 million children would see a boost to their family’s income.

As the minimum wage for 200,000 employees of federal contractors rose yesterday to $10.10, thanks to an executive order by the President, one contractor, Carmen Ortiz Larsen of AQUAS Inc. said:

“From a business perspective, a higher minimum wage will reduce turnover and training costs, and lead to more productive workers who are focused on the work at hand, not on looking for another job that pays more.”

If that’s not enough to dispel—or at least put a dent in—the tried-and-false argument against raising the minimum wage, a raft of academic studies have shown that increasing the minimum wage floor has little or no impact on employment—and may actually create up to 140,000 jobs by pumping money into the economy due to workers’ increased incomes.

In addition, there is evidence that job creation is faster in states that have raised their minimum wages. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that in 13 of 14 states that raised their minimum wages in 2014, all but one (New Jersey) had higher job growth in the first five months after the wage increase than in the preceding five months. In nine of the states with faster growth, employment gains were above the national median.

So, just as the US Congress is not representing the American people in supporting a decent wage for tens of millions of workers, big Washington lobbyists for low-wage industries don’t reflect the views of most of the nation’s employers.

Read more:

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October 2014 Ohio CASH E-News

Posted by kwilliams on 10/08/2014

2014 Ohio CASH meetings

Join us at 11 a.m. on Thursday October 30 and Thursday December 10 for the next Ohio CASH Meetings. Topics coming soon!

CFED Update

The Corporation for Enterprise Development launched an Assets and Opportunity Local Data Center, featuring local data on family financial stability, searchable at the county and municipal level. Users can customize, print or share reports on Facebook or Twitter. Visit the Local Data Center here.

The September CFED Assets Learning Conference was packed full of workshops and speakers to help practitioners further the asset building movement. Ohio CASH members Lucy Crane of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Suzanne Parks of the Ohio Community Development Corporation Association, and Kalitha Williams of Policy Matters Ohio met with members of Congress to share their programming and discuss family financial stability.

Cuyahoga County EITC Coalition Program Evaluation

Poliy Matters Ohio evaluated the Cuyahoga County Earned Income Tax Coalition’s free tax programs. The coalition of over 40 community partners helps thousands of low- to moderate-income families file their taxes each year. In the last tax season, the coalition served over 12,000 people, a 9 percent increase from the previous year. The evaluation found that nearly $15 million in refunds had been claimed and every dollar spent by the coalition brought $30 in state and federal refunds into the county. Read the full report here.

Ohio CDC Association Annual Conference

The Ohio CDC Association is having its 30th annual conference October 9-10, in Dayton. This year’s conference, “Reinventing Our Communities,” will feature Peter Kageyama, author of For the Love of Cities and co-founder of the Creative Cities Summit. Registration is still open here.

Payday Lending Update

During the CFED Assets Learning Conference congressional meetings, participants asked Congress members to support the Durbin-Cartwright bill “The Protecting Consumers from Unreasonable Credit Rates Act,” which would create a national interest rate cap of 36% APR for consumer financial products, including payday loans. Licensed payday lenders currently charge rates up to almost 800% in Ohio. Unfortunately, the legislation has no co-sponsors from Ohio. Several Ohio CASH partner organizations joined the sign-on letter distributed to Congressional offices. These included Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO), Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, Ohio CDC Association, and Ohio Poverty Law Center. Read the full letter and press release here.

The Military Lending Act (MLA) was passed in 2007 to protect military personnel from abusive lending practices. One crucial provision creates a 36% interest rate limit on financial products. Unfortunately, payday lenders got around the law by creating products that differed slightly from those outlined in the MLA, and continued to charge high rates to service members. Recently, the Obama Administration proposed rules that would close the loopholes in MLA. Ohio CASH and COHHIO joined other consumer advocacy organizations around the nation to support the proposal. Read the Ohio press release here.

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Prize-Linked Savings Bill Passes the House

Posted by mlulion on 10/03/2014

On September 15, the American Savings Promotion Act (H.R. 3774) passed the United States House of Representatives! This legislation would clear the way for all interested financial institutions to offer prize-linked savings (PLS) products by removing federal barriers that currently prohibit banks and thrifts from offering them. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Kilmer (D-WA) and Cotton (R-Ark) and passed unanimously. Companion legislation, introduced by Senators Moran (R-KS) and Brown (D-OH), is currently awaiting action.

Source: D2D Fund September 2014 Newsletter

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3 Things Generation Y Needs to Consider About Retirement

Posted by mlulion on 10/03/2014

By Annie Cromwell, America Saves Communications Associate

A recent Gallup Poll named “not having enough money for retirement” as the top financial concern among Americans ages 18-65+. A number of employers are offering automatic retirement-savings in an attempt to lessen these fears and make savings automatic, often suggesting that new hires contribute 3% of their pay.

However, experts say that workers should contribute closer to 12%-15%, including both worker and employer contributions. But often that 3% employees contribute is not enough to receive an employer’s full 401(k) matching contribution.

Let’s say you are a young person, ages 18-34, and are having to consider and provide for all of your financial needs, possibly for the first time in your life, and contributing to a retirement savings plan seems too far off to even think about. But you know it is important…what should you do?

Consider These Things:

The earlier you start saving, the more money you gain from compound interest. Many of you might be looking to pay down large debts, invest more in stocks or even making a big purchase like a car or a wedding in the next year. Contributing to a retirement fund may be the furthest thing from your mind. But consider this: compounding is the exponential increase of an investment. So let’s say you put $4,000 in the bank and interest is paid 5% annually, the bank will give you $200 in interest for the first year. And if that $200 stays in your account, it will begin to earn interest too. If you begin early, think of all of the interest you could earn interest on!

No two savers are alike. You cannot compare the amount that a surgeon earns to a shampooer. And consequently, there is no uniform amount that everyone can/should put away for retirement savings. Consider how much you are earning, then consider your present financial situation (i.e. are you in debt, providing for a dependent, etc.) then adjust your savings accordingly.

Rest assured that your generation is doing just fine. According to the most recent Merrill Edge Report, 77%of people aged 18-34 are looking to grow their retirement nest egg. The report also found that Generation Y workers between the ages of 18 and 34, with an annual income of between $50,000 and $250,000, have saved an average of $55,000, and hope to save close to $2.5 million by retirement age! Also, many Generation Y workers began saving at an average age of 22, which is more than a decade earlier than the average baby boomer. We’re doing quite well, thank you!

Perhaps you think you have a lifetime before you’ll utilize your retirement funds, and that you’ll have almost as long to start saving; or maybe it’s too overwhelming a task and you’re unsure where to begin; or for some, you feel the amount you could contribute right now would be inconsequential, and better served financing your present needs. Remember, retirement is imminent and you need to save for it. With that in mind, it is also important to know that it is okay to start small, and if you free up some funds in your budget and make a plan you can look forward to a comfortable retirement too!

See more at:

Published: May 21, 2013

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Balancing Your Savigs Retirement vs. Everything Else

Posted by mlulion on 10/03/2014

By Kate Bryan

Should I save money or pay down debt? Should I pay for my child’s education or save for retirement? Should I pay down my student loans or build my savings? These are valid questions, as many of us have multiple savings and debt repayment goals to achieve at the same time. Figuring out how to prioritize them can be a struggle.

The good news is that in most cases, the answer to these questions is the same: DO BOTH. A recent Boston Globe article discussed savings strategies for every age and touched on situations where multiple goals commonly arise including:

Paying Down Student Debt vs. Saving for Retirement

Young and first-time workers may want to pay down their student debt as fast as possible. And paying down debt is a good thing. But, if these workers are not also saving for retirement, they are missing out on some of the most important years to save. Because of the miracle of compound interest, money saved for retirement in your 20’s grows more than money saved later. Contribute at least enough money to get a company match while you continue to pay at least the minimum payment on student loans.

Buying a House vs. Saving for Retirement

Workers in their 30’s and 40’s may be tempted to cash out their retirement saving accounts to buy their first home. But this could be detrimental to their retirement savings. Don’t touch your retirement savings to buy a home. Instead save a portion of your pay in addition to saving for retirement.

Saving for Your Childs College vs. Saving for Retirement

Parents want to provide the best for their children. Saving money for your child’s education will help them avoid taking out large loans they will need to pay back later. But don’t forgo retirement saving and only save for education. Research lower-cost schools, find free money for schools, and continue to save for retirement. Remember, you can apply for grants and scholarships – or take out student loans, if your savings doesn’t quite cover the costs - but these options are not available for retirement.

Get Started During National Save for Retirement Week, October 19-25, 2014

National Save for Retirement Week is an opportunity for employers to make employees aware of how critical it is to save now for their financial future, promote the benefits of saving for retirement, and encourage employees to take full advantage of their employer-sponsored plans by starting or increasing their contributions. Encourage your employer to participate and learn more at

Katie Bryan works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at

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Charlotte's Rise In Poverty

Posted by rlynch on 10/03/2014

Charlotte continues to become one of the most progressive cities in terms of economics and growth. Paralleling that growth is the continuing rise of poverty and the decline in opportunities for economic mobility for low-income families. Charlotte has been ranked last in economic mobility and the Business Insider currently reports The Queen City as third in highest poverty rates. These staggering results have provided legislators, local government, community leaders, and human service organizations such as Crisis Assistance Ministry and Goodwill of Southern Piedmont the opportunity to come together and seek solutions to alleviate poverty in Mecklenburg County.

These organizations are seeking to create effective community strategies, partnerships, and innovative uses of technology to streamline and simplify the connection of resources to communities in need. According to Carol Hardison, Executive Director at Crisis Assistance Ministry, we must, “create a community where people can overcome financial crisis without falling into the cycle of chronic poverty and dependency.” Furthermore we must create solutions to reduce the poverty rate in Mecklenburg County in order to counteract the strategies that limit the economic mobility of our citizens.

To read Carol Hardison’s letters to the Editor of the Charlotte Observer about taking a stand please, CLICK HERE

To see solutions and strategies organizations are currently using to combat poverty please, CLICK HERE

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