The Salvation Army offering Financial Education in Florida

By: Brad Rowland

From coast to coast, millions operate with financial uncertainty, and The Salvation Army often steps into the gap to aid those in need. In Tarpon Springs, Florida, an educational initiative exists to do just that in the “Money Smart” class.

Curriculum for the class stems from a program created by the FDIC entitled “Money Smart: A Financial Education Program,” and the creation of the educational opportunity stemmed from need in the community.

“We noticed in the years following the nationwide financial crisis that many of those affected, when asked about their budget, could not list all their expenses or when listing them were shocked to see how much higher their expenses were compared to their income,” said Traci Stickney, Social Services Manager. “From there, we observed that many seniors were struggling to make their Social Security check stretch the whole month and, in looking to our community and other agencies, we saw this gap in financial education.”

Because of the population dynamics in Pinellas County and the surrounding area, the class skews toward seniors and, while the program is required for those seeking financial assistance, it is also open to the public. The Salvation Army partners with First United Methodist Church of Tarpon Springs to use the church’s facility, offering the class once a month. The instruction arrives in an hour-long format, with plans to operate the program weekly beginning in 2019 and potential expansion to The Salvation Army’s social services offices in Clearwater.

When working with seniors, there is a focus on budgeting from once-a-month earnings, whether the individual’s income arrives from Social Security or other programs. Stickney is joined by a co-worker, Elizabeth Lindzy, who is also a senior, to teach the class, and that combination proves effective in providing context and experience when conveying the pivotal information.

Success stories are ongoing, with individuals benefiting from the use of couponing, budgetary planning and practical application of daily savings. In the big picture, the goal is to serve as a breeding ground for future achievement.

“I believe that the more tools someone has for sustainability, the more successful they will be,” Stickney said. “Our goal is to give them those tools so that one day they won’t have to seek financial assistance and can be self-sustaining. This also provides people with hope to the future and, if they can take control of their household budget, they feel they can achieve even more.”

Original article appears here in the Southern Spirit.

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