April is for Showers, Tulips, Taxes… and Financial Literacy

Money symbols on a green and blue backgroundSo much happens this time of year. We start getting more sunshine, rain, and flowers. And, of course, taxes are due! April is also National Financial Literacy Month, which was first officially designated in 2003. Activities this month are designed to raise awareness and skills in a variety of financial literacy areas, including budgeting, banking, credit, investing, and more.

And money matters are certainly in the news, with the recent federal budget showdown and continued discussions of a recovering economy. President Obama kicked off National Financial Literacy Month with this statement:

Americans’ ability to build a secure future for themselves and their families requires the navigation of an increasingly complex financial system.  As we recover from the worst economic crisis in generations, it is more important than ever to be knowledgeable about the consequences of our financial decisions.  During National Financial Literacy Month, we recommit to improving financial literacy and ensuring all Americans have access to trustworthy financial services and products.  

The financial crisis was fueled by a lack of responsibility from Wall Street to Washington.  It devastated ordinary Americans, many of whom were caught by hidden fees and penalties or saddled with loans they could not afford.  Preventing a recurrence will require both better behavior and oversight on Wall Street and more informed decision making on Main Street and in homes across our country.  To lay the foundation for continued prosperity, we must expand the availability of financial products and services that are fair, affordable, understandable, and reliable.  We must also strive to ensure all Americans have the skills to manage their fiscal resources effectively and avoid deceptive or predatory practices.

Financial literacy is important for all youth, including youth with disabilities. According to a 2009 article in the Journal of Disability Policy Studies, almost half of working age adults who experience poverty for a year or more have one or more disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March 2011, only 21.0% of persons with disabilities age 16 and older participated in the civilian non-institutional labor force, compared to 69.7% for persons without disabilities. Further, simply getting or keeping a job is not a stand-alone pathway out of poverty, especially for individuals who are struggling under crushing educational, medical, and other debt and for those people who have not been taught how to navigate and take advantage of financial systems and resources in our country. Many youth with disabilities must navigate many more systems than their peers without disabilities.

Financial planning and management is an essential element of Connecting Activities identified in NCWD/Youth’s Guideposts for Success, a framework for serving all youth, including youth with disabilities. Financial literacy is also included in the National Youth Employment Coalition’s PEPNet Quality Standards for Youth Programs, in the Thriving area of their Youth Development Competencies category.

Dollar bill sticking out of jeans pocketSo we know financial literacy is important. But there are so many things to learn, what do we teach? And there are many financial literacy curricula available for youth. Some of them are better than others. Where do we start?

The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy developed the National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education. Jump$tart intends for the National Standards to serve as a “framework of an ideal personal finance curriculum, portions of which might not be appropriate for individual instructors and students.” They leave flexibility in the framework for “various stakeholders to decide how to address the topics in the National Standards.”

Jump$tart organized the National Standards into six categories outlined below.

  • Financial Responsibility and Decision Making (applying reliable information and systematic decision making to personal financial decisions)
  • Income and Careers (using a career plan to develop personal income potential)
  • Planning and Money Management (organizing personal finances and using a budget to manage cash flow)
  • Credit and Debt (maintaining creditworthiness, borrow at favorable terms, and manage debt)
  • Risk Management and Insurance (using appropriate and cost-effective risk management strategies)
  • Saving and Investing (implementing a diversified investment strategy that is compatible with personal goals

When looking into financial literacy curricula for youth, consider how they address the above National Standards and how they fit with a particular group of youth.

So, getting started… In November 2005, NCWD/Youth developed an InfoBrief entitled “Financial Literacy for Young People with Disabilities.” It includes links to a variety of web-based resources that youth service professionals can use. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and their partners created MyMoney.gov, a resource “teaching all Americans the basics about financial education.” Just one of the many resources you can find using this website is the FDIC’s Money Smart curriculum available in portable audio file (MP3) format through the Money Smart Podcast Network (MSPN). The free podcasts cover topics such as the basics of banking, borrowing money wisely, and using a spending plan to achieve financial goals. For example, here’s a link to the podcast on budget and savings:  FDIC Money Smart Podcast Network: Listen Now Budget & Savings.

Also, check out Real Economic Impact, a project of the National Disability Institute that has “tools and strategies… on fostering public policy change, education and training to build capacity and leadership in the disability and asset building communities, and research to document promising practices that support income production and savings and asset development and accumulation.” Another great resource is the National Endowment for Financial Education, which has a variety of resources and curricula for high school students and other youth.

If you would like a little light reading on the subject, I recommend “Half in Ten: Why Taking Disability into Account is Essential to Reducing Income Poverty and Expanding Economic Inclusion,” by Shawn Fremstad at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. I know, it sounds like a slog, but the report is only 19 pages and doesn’t require a PhD to get through.

Finally, many youth with disabilities need education on federal benefits planning. More than a million youth between the ages of 13 and 29 receive some form of Social Security cash benefit support each month. There are several different types of benefits, and each of those types is affected by a variety of factors, including youth’s personal income and savings. NCWD/Youth developed an excellent resource on benefits planning. It’s a great place to start if you want to learn more about helping youth receiving or eligible for benefits plan out their financial futures.

By Eric Cline, Program Coordinator, National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership Center for Workforce Development.

Image courtesy of:  Renjith Krishnan & Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About NCWD Youth

NCWD/Youth works to ensure that transition age youth are provided full access to high quality services in integrated settings to gain education, employment, and independent living.
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2 Responses to April is for Showers, Tulips, Taxes… and Financial Literacy

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