During the course of their work in Alameda County, our members discovered a gap among the existing financial education and credit building tools available. Existing tools focused on individual choices, including budgeting and saving. However, these tools did not address the immediate situation in which many community residents found themselves – trapped in the predatory lending cycle – and came together though AC CAN to develop the Savvy Consumer Toolkit to eliminate that gap. We began in 2011 by researching the issue of predatory financial products and services, and adapted existing resources to produce an original curriculum. In 2012, four AC CAN members pilot tested the Toolkit, including: Game Theory Academy, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, Brighter Beginnings, and Fremont FRC. In 2013, we created a train the trainer curriculum and website to distribute the Toolkit, and fully launched our distribution and training efforts last December.
What are learning about the Toolkit’s impact on our community?
During the PILOT TESTING PHASE, our members delivered the workshop to 172 people, who were between the ages of 15 and 48. We discovered the following information about their demographics and financial behavior. 9 OUT OF 10 reside in low income communities of color, 6 OUT OF 10 have used a predatory product or service in the past 12 months, and 4 OUT OF 10 are unbanked.
After the workshop, 9 OUT OF 10 said they were more likely to ask questions before using a financial product or service. We also asked them to tell us the most important thing they learned, and they said:
“Where I spend my money affects my community”
“Ask more questions now about my money when talking to the bank.”
“To make sure I always ask questions so that I’m spending my money how I want to”
We have trained 47 financial and community educators and public agency staff through our TRAIN THE TRAINER MODEL. Virtually everyone who has completed the training would recommend it to others, and when we asked them what they liked most about the training, they said: iNTERACTIVE, ENGAGING, TIMELY AND RELEVANT.
Over 120 people have downloaded the curriculum since December 2013, and all of them plan to use the Toolkit again.
We also used the Toolkit in an ASSET BUILDING PILOT PROGRAM with the Alameda County Social Service Agency last winter. Now that the pilot program is complete, most of the participants want to get connected to resources that provide them with the tools needed to build wealth, including investing. We asked the group how they would describe the curriculum, and they said:
“It’s a way to move from poverty to wealth consciousness”
“I have more confidence in making financial decisions”
“I know I’m not alone in my journey to financial stability.”