If you were to make a list of the skills needed to be successful at living independently, understanding how to manage money would be very close to the top. This important fact is what inspired Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) to create the financial education guide, Cents and Sensibility and subsequently, Money Club, a program to help young people with disabilities learn the 'ins and outs' of managing their finances.
After the success PATF had in 2015 with its initial Money Club pilot project in Narberth, Montgomery County, Achieva was eager to try the program. Achieva’s "A Home of My Own" program launched Money Club West, applying PATF curriculum, using Cents and Sensibility, as a guide. In order to maximize the valuable lessons contained in the book, PATF also developed a Companion Manual for Educators.
PATF Operations Director, Tracy Beck and Sue Davis, PATF Program Specialist were excited to see how Achieva was making this program work for them. Tracy took a road trip to attend one of Money Club West’s meetings. Navigating plummeting temperatures and icy conditions Tracy made her way across the state and reached Achieva's warm and welcoming offices just as night fell. She found the Money Club Program Coordinator already there, with fellow supports brokers and coaches, Eric Schubert and Tom Vash, ready for their Money Clubbers to arrive.
The young adults enrolled in Money Club West are all involved in "A Home of My Own", a program that prepares young adults with disabilities to live independently. The young adults PATF met are either living in the community with supports or preparing to do so in the future.
At every meeting, after signing in, each participant made their monthly “deposit” into their Individual Development Account (IDA) account, which was matched by a contribution from PATF. At the end of the program, everyone used their savings to purchase the assistive technology (AT) of their choosing. Members saved for such things as tablets, laptops and helpful apps and software. After making their deposit, each person talked to the group about their accomplishments over the previous month. Monte talked about opening a new savings account. Evan shared that hegot a Section 8 housing voucher. Tara explained her research on choosing a laptop.
PATF staff were thrilled to listen to individual members presenting to the group their results from a recent activity on comparison shopping. They talked about how they decided on what to buy and how it was going to help them to live more independently. They described exploring different prices for the AT they chose to buy, from various retailers. Samantha read her very detailed report that she had written for the group, with the help of her life coach Becca, about how she plans to use an iPad to increase her independence.
The group learned about the dangers of identity theft and how to keep their personal information safe and protect their PIN when using ATM’s. The program coordinator asked everyone to email her a list of ways a person can avoid identity theft. A gift card was given as a prize for the person with the best answers!
PATF was so impressed by the enthusiasm and clear investment of everyone involved. Regardless of where you are when you start your financial journey, Money Club West is a reminder that everyone has something to learn from Cents and Sensibility, whether it's understanding financial terms, learning to make informed financial decisions or determining how to manage your money safely and wisely as you move forward towards independent living.