Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

A Novel Financial Education Program for Single Women of Low-Income and Their Children

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

A Novel Financial Education Program for Single Women of Low-Income and Their Children

Article excerpt


Traditional risk factors for heart disease include hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, obesity, sedentary behavior, smoking and family history (1). Financial stress, however, has also been implicated in cardiovascular disease risk. In the Framingham heart study, financial stress was associated with coronary heart disease and was shown to predict myocardial infarction and cardiac death in women (2,3). Additionally, lower socioeconomic status is associated with impaired well-being and biologic risk factors for heart disease including hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndrome and diabetes (4-6). Low socioeconomic status and financial stress also have deleterious effects on the health of children, including a greater rate of childhood obesity and subsequent development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (7-10).

Financial stress is not uncommon. Up to 40% of American households report living paycheck to paycheck (11). Single-mother families may be especially affected by financial strain. A report from 2012 found that 63% of single mother families met the poverty rate in the United States versus a 17% rate of poverty in two-parent families (poverty rate based on the 50% of median income poverty standard) (12). Due to its prevalence and association with poor health outcomes, financial stress presents a novel target for public health interventions, especially in the single-mother family population.

Program history

In an effort to reduce financial stress and improve money management skills in low income, single mother families, the Financial Success Program (FSP) was created. The FSP was initially funded by a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation in 2010 to explore what financial education program components are most effective in creating behavior change for low income single mothers. The FSP focuses on three core components: an outstanding trainer, financial coaching, and an easy to use money management system.

To be eligible for participation in the FSP, women must be earning a minimum of $12,000 annually, cannot be involved in a domestic violence situation or have an active addiction to alcohol or illicit drugs. They must also be willing to participate in both nine weeks of training and one year of financial coaching. The initial nine-week curriculum was created to address the immediate financial issues in a group of employed women who are struggling financially. The curriculum includes tracking expenses, saving for emergencies, and repairing credit reports. Information on taxes, insurance, predatory lending, legal issues, and the psychology of money are also provided. The nine-week curricular outline is described below (see table 1). The classes are offered once a week for two-three hours in a local community meeting space. Program participants receive free dinner and daycare with each weekly class. Participants are also paired with a financial coach, with whom they work with for a year following the initial classes. Financial coaches review and assess saved receipts, expense tracking forms, pay stubs and credit reports with the women.

From this evaluation, spending habits are discussed and women participants make plans for change. Frequency of interaction with the coach is agreed upon by the participant and coach and may vary throughout the year depending on needs. This may include face to face meetings, phone calls, or email interaction. To date 196 women have completed the FSP.

Program methodology

The FSP is a two-phase program. Phase One involves the nine-week didactic curriculum in which women and their children receive a healthy dinner and live interactive educational sessions with an experienced trainer. Free childcare is available during these meetings. Phase Two occurs after graduation from the educational classes and involves one-on-one financial coaching from an assigned FSP representative, as well as monthly graduate follow-up meetings. …

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