Young Women CAN! manage money

Published: Thursday, April 03, 2014

In early March, a member of Consumer Action’s outreach team participated in the Young Women CAN! Event hosted by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA).

In early March, a member of Consumer Action’s outreach team participated in the Young Women CAN! Event hosted by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) for high school girls ages 14-18 at Facebook’s Menlo Park corporate campus. The event was designed to teach young women about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, modes of “empowering communication,” and financial education. More than 150 students and parents attended.

“This century is about STEM jobs,” Speier said. “Young women must recognize where opportunities exist for their futures. Today, we ignited enthusiasm in them for STEM careers.” The Congresswomen and the keynote speaker, Dr. Natalie Batalha, a research astronomer in the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center and a member of the Kepler Mission, made a compelling case for why young women should consider STEM careers.

After the general session, the students had the opportunity to attend one of three workshops. Techbridge, an organization working to inspire girls to discover a passion for technology, science and engineering, facilitated “STEM Inspired.” MoneyWi$e Teens and Money was facilitated by Consumer Action’s Audrey Perrott, and “Empowering Communication” was led by Equal Rights Advocates, a group fighting for equality for women and girls.

High school students and some parents attended the Teens and Money session. Perrott provided a condensed training that started with impressing upon the students the importance of savings, making sound financial decisions and tracking their expenses. Perrott had the audience do a “sit down” exercise, where she had the entire class stand up and then sit down if a particular statement relating to banking, savings, tracking expenses or establishing credit resonated with them. The exercise engaged the audience and determined which topics were of greatest interest.

Next, Perrott asked the class if they knew how banks and credit unions differ. Perrott discussed the key differences and similarities between banks and credit unions and discussed the advantages of having an account rather than obtaining financial services from check cashing outlets, payday lenders, etc.

When Perrott asked the class if they knew the difference between wants and needs, one student correctly indicated that needs could include food, housing and transportation. Another student—also correctly—suggested that examples of wants were fast food, clothing and make-up.

Dividing the class and assigning team leaders for each table, Perrott led students in the Needs vs. Wants activity from the Teens and Money lesson plan. The students considered different items and images representing needs versus wants. The kids found alternatives such as taking public transportation or walking as an alternative to driving, or watching YouTube videos for free instead of buying CDs or concert tickets.

Using our “Monica and Sarah” activity from the MoneyWiSe Teens and Money lesson plan, the students gauged sound choices and offered recommendations for saving money.

The students had a lot of budgeting savvy. One student shared questions that she asks herself before major purchases: 1) Will I want this item in five days? 2) Will I want it in five months? 3) Will I need it in five years? If she can’t answer “yes” to all three questions, she said she doesn’t make the purchase.

Perrott concluded the session with a discussion about credit. She told the students that it was important to establish and maintain good credit. Having bad credit could have a negative impact on their ability to obtain housing, employment, education loans, buy cars or obtain good rates for insurance, credit cards, etc. Perrott issued each class participant a “Teens and Money” booklet, a calculator and a financial literacy game so that they would continue to school themselves in financial literacy.

 

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