Published: Thursday, May 07, 2009

More than 300 WIC staff from California attend workshop to become MoneyWise

When the California WIC Association (CWA) rolled out its “Workplace Wellness Program” at its’ annual conference, CA’s Outreach Manager Linda Williams, was tapped to teach participants how to stay fiscally healthy in turbulent times. WIC employees from over 600 worksites in California attended CWA’s 17th annual conference on April 26-27 in San Jose, California.

CWA estimates that WIC employees provide direct services to over 1.41 million low-income families statewide. Realizing that WIC employees are its most valuable assets, CWA used the conferences to introduce its “Worksite Wellness” initiative, which focuses upon creating a healthy work environment for all WIC employees. To assist WIC sites in making physical, emotional and spiritual wellness a priority for frontline staff, CWA offered a full day of workshops with emphasis on Financial, Nutritional, and Brain Health. Williams kicked the training off by asking participants to raise their hand if they have a savings plan.

When fewer than five hands were raised, Williams used a colander to demonstrate that without a “Savings Plans,” their money is like water-- running through the holes and that a Savings Plan is needed for those unexpected emergencies. In this economy, Williams told the audience, you better know where your money is going. Williams then suggested that all participants take out a pen and paper so they could have a draft of a Savings Plan by the conclusion of the presentation. Using a condensed version of the MoneyWi$e Saving to Build Wealth, Money Management, Banking Basics, Credit and Rebuilding Credit, Williams pointed out to participants areas where they could to cut to the fat, how to set financial goals, and identify ways in which they could save.

Williams used the Saving to Build Wealth module to emphasize the importance of identifying the barriers that prevent consumers from saving, tracking their spending and building a sound Emergency savings account. Money Management was used to teach participants how to prepare and implement a realistic budget that work and the importance of balancing a checking account. Using one of the most highly requested CA brochures, Williams introduced participants to 66 Ways to Save, stressing how recycling, cutting coupons, and comparison-shopping can help consumers find that spare change.

The importance of conserving energy was stressed and participants were encouraged to learn how to read their gas and electric meters, and to make conservation a family priority. All training participants were unaware of several specialty reports which included: Chexsystems, Choicepoint, MIB or Specialty Consumer Reports. All of their interests were peaked with anticipation of receiving information that could be shared with their clients and other staff members.

Williams also shared information about the increase of Identity Theft and stressed the importance of obtaining and reviewing regularly a copy of one’s credit and specialty consumer reports. Conference participants for the three days following the workshop huddled around Consumer Action’s exhibit table, to get additional information, ask questions, and to pick up additional materials. Participants that attended the workshop brought their co-workers and friends by the CA booth to gather more information and ask additional questions. They all raved about the MoneyWi$e presentation, including the organizers of the event, as well as the CA WIC State Director. One participant stated that the presentation was an “Enlighten moment for her as it painted a clear picture of everything she needed to do to get her financial affairs in order and stop worrying. She shared with others that the presentation gave her a new outlook on life.

Consumer Action is now a partner of California WIC, training over 300 frontline WIC advocates on MoneyWi$e materials. Two years ago, Williams connected with the National Office of WIC in Washington, DC and engaged them in a discussion on the need for financial literacy to be a part of their conferences across the country. The National WIC Communications Director and Executive Director followed up with the Outreach Department of Consumer Action and ascertained the feasibility of such a plan. With their continued support, they took a chance on showcasing MoneyWi$e financial literacy workshops initially in the Los Angeles area and then at the CA State Conference. After receiving overwhelming feedback about MoneyWi$e and Consumer Action, the national WIC Office is convinced that financial literacy must be a part of their conferences across the United States.



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