Several asset-building thoughts are taking up space in my brain today, all having to do with financial education:
1. I’m eager to become familiar with the “Pathways to Prosperity” curriculum for IDA programs, which Berkshire Community Action Council acquired recently from the Center for Enterprise Development (CFED). Sustaining our momentum will require having an initial curriculum ready for up to a dozen or so participants to begin gettin’ schooled on finance sometime in May. Paula Consolini and her students at Williams will be testing out some elements of the curriculum in April, but we’ll still be taking a fairly big leap of faith. I hope the parachute opens.
2. I subscribe via Bloglines to the Carnival of Debt Reduction, which sounds like some bizarro-world amusement park (come one, come all, and watch our amazing knife-thrower pop the credit card balloon without skewering the pretty lady), but I learned that the word carnival is now used to refer to a website that collects posts from various bloggers all writing on a single topic — a sort of anthology that has presumably been edited to make sure that it contains the best available content on a particular theme. Every week or so I hear what a variety of bloggers are saying about debt reduction, which is a surprisingly popular topic in the blogosphere. Many of these bloggers are chronicling their own struggles to get out of debt, and they find that writing about it helps give them discipline to abide by the sometimes draconian measures that are necessary to pay down debt and still make ends meet. They all seem to have quite a few readers (and not just each other), so I’m assuming that many non-blogging debtors find that reading about other debtors helps give them discipline to improve their financial management. These writers and readers are not necessarily poor; in many cases, they earn decent or even above-average salaries, but they have exercised bad judgment or had bad luck when it comes to money and have put themselves in a hole from which it is hard work to get out. They’re not precisely the folks I’m thinking of for asset-building programs, but nevertheless there’s inspiration to be found in a group of people who have wound up in financial straits but are working hard to extricate themselves from those straits. IDA program managers might want to tune into what these bloggers are sharing and decide if any of their financial education participants would find it beneficial to hear (week after week) how certain people are finding ways to cut back on spending and improve their net worth. Debt reduction certainly plays a role in asset-building, and I’m sure that a number of people who qualify for IDA accounts on the basis of income are also struggling with some amount of credit card debt, car loans, etc. I want to learn more about the interplay between IDA programs and debt reduction.
3. I got an email today about the annoyingly named Planet Orange Financial Literacy Awards from online bank ING Direct. These are small grants ($200 – $1,000) for K-8 teachers who want to incorporate financial education into classroom activities and need some extra materials or books or equipment to do so. I plan to pass that on to some local educators who might be interested. Anything we can do to get people moving down an asset-building track early in life makes a lot of sense.