According to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, nearly two-thirds of Americans cannot pass a basic financial literacy test.
This is problematic; individuals lacking a strong financial literacy foundation borrow more money, accumulate fewer assets and pay more in financial product fees. And the effects of these actions – which include an increase in personal debt and a decrease in the likelihood that they will be financially prepared for the future – can be long lasting.
Empowering Economic Opportunity’s Financial Coaching and Literacy program aims to reverse those odds. It unites the region’s five Community Action agencies – Action Inc., Community Action, Inc., Lynn Economic Opportunity, Inc., Greater Lawrence Community Action Council and North Shore Community Action Programs – in a coalition to educate and engage Essex County residents living below the living wage and increase financial empowerment across the region.
“The goal of this program is to establish a regional solution that integrates financial education into existing adult education and Community Action HeadStart programs, which serve hundreds of individuals and families annually,” said Stratton Lloyd, ECCF’s COO and vice president for community leadership. “Community Action Agencies fight the effects of poverty every single day, and are well positioned to help equip people with resources to change their economic futures.”
The Financial Coaching and Literacy Program – and the three other projects of Empowering Economic Opportunity – were officially launched to more than 200 community, nonprofit, business and philanthropic leaders at Wiggin Hall in Peabody on Feb. 26. At the launch event, ECCF revealed the details of its $1.3 million, multi-year investment in scaling working solutions for income inequality across Essex County, where 38 percent of residents live below the living wage.
The Financial Coaching and Literacy coalition, which also includes community colleges, financial literacy providers, banks and community volunteers, has been working with Santander – its lead banking partner – and the United Way to train financial coaches for the program. In April, the group held a four-day Financial Coaching Training and Certification course for more than 15 of these coaches at the offices of Peabody TV. In the coming weeks and months, the coalition will gather its leaders; conduct one-on-one meetings with site managers to build detailed program schedules and create comprehensive site plans; and coordinate workshops schedules and resources with Santander.
A build of the full program schedule and implementation plan is slated for July.