Financial goal-setting is for all ages: the F.Y.R.E. Initiative partners with Citizens for intergenerational Money Mindset series
Note: Throughout this article, we use the terms “womxn” and “gxrl” as terms to include anyone, including transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, polygender, and gender non-conforming people, whose key gender identity, experience, and internal perception on the spectrum of gender is woman or girl.
Personal finance is a critical part of life, but many people of all ages don’t feel like they know enough about it. One survey by Mint found that 65% of Americans do not know how much they spent last month, with even higher numbers for younger generations. The gap in who receives financial education during their childhood or early adulthood impacts who accumulates wealth over time – oftentimes furthering our country’s racial and gender wealth gaps.
With YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative, we recognize that financial education and planning is a crucial aspect of empowerment. These tools support individuals’ and communities’ work toward greater equity. As part of the program, F.Y.R.E. participants—also called Igniters—are empowered to assess racial and gender inequities in the City of Boston. They learn about historical and contemporary racial and gender equity movements, increasing their capacity to engage in advocacy, policy change, and to lead others to act on issues important to them. An aspect that’s becoming a big part of the F.Y.R.E. Initiative’s work to engage gxrls in their communities is helping them understand their identity, their needs, and their passions.
Financial self-care is one of F.Y.R.E.’s eight self-care goals, as “Spending and saving in a way to suit your current and future needs” is a necessary part of supporting oneself. Learning skills around financial planning is not a built-out aspect of our curriculum. So, we were thrilled when Citizens, a F.Y.R.E. Initiative supporter, offered to host financial planning Money Mindset workshops with our Igniters. We were able to host two workshops:
- One intergenerational Money Mindset workshop with gxrls and their parents with Boston Police Department’s GROW program
- One gxrls-only Money Mindset workshop with Boston’s Center for Youth and Families Girls Leadership Corps
Learn more about why financial education is crucial for young gxrls of color, and what we discovered from our partnership with Citizens.
Financial education is a key component of empowerment, for youth and adults.
As Dr. Joanne Li, professor of finance, recently wrote in an op-ed, “Financial literacy empowers communities.” Among other benefits, it leads to food security, fewer foreclosures, and less stress. But, not everyone has access to financial education – particularly those who do not come from upper class backgrounds.
It is well documented that financial inequities hit women of color particularly hard. The median wealth for single Black and Latinx women in the United States are $200 and $100, respectively – compared to $15,640 for White women and $28,900 for White men. This is due to many historical and present systemic factors, such as housing discrimination and opportunities in higher education. All of this is worsened by the lack of financial education standardized for youth. Only 21 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, and Massachusetts is not one of those states.
Working to close the wealth and financial education gaps means meeting people where they are and understanding their needs. As Cameron Glover wrote in “Who’s Teaching Black Women About Financial Literacy?”, “Financial literacy, especially for Black women, is about much more than simply having the tools; it’s about connecting with the community and understanding how to empower and serve a diverse clientele.” This is one reason why the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, as a community-based, empowerment-focused program, was excited to use our resources to bring financial workshops to our program participants and their parents.
Citizens’ Money Mindset partnership presented a valuable opportunity to learn.
We are thankful to Citizens, a supporter of the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, who reached out to YW Boston with the opportunity to provide basic financial literacy training to program participants. TiElla Grimes, the F.Y.R.E. Initiative’s Senior Program Manager, recognized this as an opportunity to fill the gap of financial education she’s seen in gxrls’ education. As she started to plan the sessions with the gxrls, it became clear that a number of parents had questions, too. Since intergenerational connections are a key part of amplifying the impact of young gxrls’ advocacy and leadership, we were excited to pull in parents, too, for one of our workshops.
TiElla saw these workshops as an opportunity to illustrate “the importance of financial literacy and intergenerational differences with learning and managing money” and to empower gxrls see the connection between financial education and thriving financially. The F.Y.R.E. Initiative works with gxrls to understand identity and how their experiences are impacted by race, gender, class, and other factors of identity. These workshops were also a space to continue discussing the intersectionality of the Igniters’ identities and the systemic impacts on their access to financial education.
These workshops also provided Citizens, with an avenue to support young people in Boston. As Lisa Murray, President for Citizens Massachusetts stated, “Through the FYRE Initiative, YW Boston is shaping the next generation of strong female leaders in our city. Engaging in meaningful partnerships is an essential part of our DNA at Citizens, so FYRE’s focus on leadership and civic engagement is a natural fit for us. Citizens is proud to partner with YW Boston to provide knowledge, experiences, and connections for young women to become changemakers in their communities and beyond.”
The workshop sessions were led by Alara Gurler, Assistant Branch Manager at Citizens, who shared, “I have always loved working with kids and teaching them things that will be useful in the future. As a person who works in finance, it’s always a big pleasure to see young people with passion and curiosity participating in these types of workshops that give them an idea of how personal finance actually works in real life!”
By starting to think about short- and long-term financial goals, the F.Y.R.E. Initiative and participants are excited to continue financial education.
During these 1.5-hour sessions, Alara focused on providing the building blocks for the Igniters and their parents. The objectives including exploring habits and attitudes related to money, learning about how to talk about money, and setting financial goals. Before jumping into planning for themselves, the participants learning the following key terms:
- Short-term goal: Goals that can take a short time, or up to five years, to reach.
- Long-term goal: Goals that can take more than five years to achieve.
- Needs: Basic things people must have to survive (such as food, clothing, and shelter), resources they need to do their jobs (such as reliable transportation and the tools of the trade), and resources to help build and protect their assets so they can meet future needs (such as emergency savings and insurance).
- Wants: Upgrades and other things that would be nice to have but aren’t necessary for living, earning, or protecting what you have.
Alara also used the acronym SMART to define how participants should think about their goals — are they specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound? Participants worked through a number of scenarios – for example, how can Sam plan to go ice-skating tomorrow while also work on saving enough for his brother’s birthday? From there, they brainstormed about their own goals – what did they want to save up for in the short term and long term, and how can they overcome any challenges? As Alara shared, “The Money Mindset sessions I joined were amazing – everyone was so excited and that kept my energy up and going at all times! It actually surprised me how much the young women already knew about credit cards, credit scores, and more.”
TiElla found that the students and adults were excited to learn. She called it a reality check for many of them, and saw many of the gxrls recognize that financial education should be taught in schools, too. The parents expressed that they wished they had this education earlier, with Boston Police Department Officer Jamila Gales with the GROW program stating, “This is amazing thank you I wish I got this when I was young.” One Igniter in the GROW group, when learning about short-term and long-term goals, stated in the chat, “This is probably why our age group can’t get it […] we feed our addiction quickly but so does adults.”
While it would be impossible to cover full financial education in 90 minutes, the F.Y.R.E. Initiative is excited about these sessions providing a building block for gxrls and parents to continue their financial education. We look forward to working to build financial literacy into the F.Y.R.E. Initiative and to continue our partnership with Citizens.
F.Y.R.E. is offered at no charge to students and is funded almost entirely through philanthropic support. You can help us reach even more girls in the Boston area! Please consider making a donation or reaching out to learn how to bring the F.Y.R.E. Initiative to your school or community.
About YW Boston’s F.Y.R.E. Initiative
With the F.Y.R.E. Initiative, launched in the Fall of 2019, YW Boston facilitators conduct a 12-15-week leadership development series for girls grades 6th through 9th. The series brings together social justice education, positive identity development, and civic engagement, culminating in small group civics projects. This model takes place in schools or Out of School Time programs, and it is developed to operate in a “girls group” structure rather than a traditional classroom structure. Core to the program is an effort to provide experiential learning opportunities and dialogue to build understanding and increase social-emotional learning.