Everyone has money problems. But that’s especially true for young people facing serious employment barriers – such as poverty, unstable housing, or a lack of education or English fluency.

For these young people, money can evoke stress or shame. Their family history may bear the scars of bank-sanctioned housing discrimination that has thwarted wealth accumulation for generations. For reasons that can range from outright distrust to the required parental signature, many young people do not use bank accounts and instead cash their checks at costly cash checking agencies. And when they do finally get cash in their pocket, it’s susceptible to the impulsivity of a young person desperate to define themselves, impress their friends, or just feel better for a moment.

So how can they start thinking about money differently? How can they learn to use money to improve their situation?

Bearded man listens to another man speak
Youth workers discuss approaches to financial literacy at the MyPath tools training.

Two-dozen Boston-area youth workers gathered March 1st at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to puzzle over these questions. But with an added boost. They were also learning about new teaching tools at their disposal: a youth financial literacy curriculum and web-based app from MyPath.

MyPath, a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on low-income youth, is providing the tools to youth programs funded by WIOA-Youth and Alternative Education Initiative grants disbursed through the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD). The tools are being provided as part of a year-long technical assistance grant from the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau.

two women look at laptop
Youth workers learn how to use the MyPath app.

At the workshop, program leaders learned how to use the activities-based curriculum, which MyPath developed in cooperation with youth. On laptops and smartphones, they also tried their hand at the app, built to help young people create a budget, set personal financial goals, and determine the necessary steps to achieving them.

Even for the adults, the app proved eye-opening. One discovered that to meet his financial goal, he would realistically have to strip back all spending to essential needs, which forced him to reconsider his priorities. Meanwhile, another youth worker discovered she would only need to eliminate spending on snacks – which in her case, amounted to $960 in annual savings. She hadn’t realized, until seeing the app’s computation, how quickly those small purchases added up.

Kelly Folsom, an instructor at X-Cel Education, pointed out that by helping young people visualize the “cost” of goals over the long-term, these financial literacy tools encouraged the kind of reflection needed to pursue other common youth goals, such as passing the HiSET high school equivalency exam. In that sense, he said, the financial literacy tools served as a “win-win-win.”

See the complete list of Alternative Education Initiative- and WIOA-Youth-funded programs on OWD’s Who We Fund page.

Learn more about MyPath from the video below.

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