Since its inception seven years ago, the FOCUS program at Friends of Children has been connecting youth aged 18-26 who are transitioning out of foster care to resources, peers, and community members to achieve independence, relational permanency, and personal success. The program has succeeded as young adults and their mentors develop positive relationships, and as community members contribute their talents through workshops on topics ranging from cooking skills to job search strategies to college financial aid approaches.
As our FOCUS program has evolved, however, one critical need has emerged: empowering young adults to successfully manage their financial affairs. After much research, we identified an established national program with proven effectiveness. Friends of Children is excited to partner with the San-Diego based agency Just In Time (JIT) to incorporate their financial literacy model into our work with FOCUS participants. JIT’s Financial Fitness series is a flexible, online, self-paced program offering financial literacy resources to help young adults achieve greater financial stability.
Financial Fitness helps participants plan for a secure financial future by gaining the confidence and know-how to practice smart money management through budgeting skills, strong saving habits, and investment strategies. Participants are paired with a coach to support them on their journey to financial self-sufficiency. Although all young adults in our FOCUS program have been invited to participate, this program requires a two-year commitment, so the intake process is thoughtful and thorough. The Financial Fitness series begins its cycle several times a year, so there is opportunity for young adults who are not yet ready to begin now to work with a mentor so that they are able to embark on this process at a later date. Our young adults in FOCUS have endured many hardships. Not only does completion of the Financial Fitness series ensure financial stability, the program offers a priceless treasure: the hard-won self-confidence that comes from successful savings. Financial Fitness is overseen by FOC Program Service Coordinator, Rosemary Koski.
Here’s an overview of Financial Fitness:
Financial Fitness 101, which spans 12 weeks, empowers participants to begin the journey from surviving to thriving through learning foundational financial literacy concepts to establish healthy money habits.
Financial Fitness 102 is an intermediate financial literacy course delivered as a six-week group workshop learning experience with individual weekly assignments. FF 102 provides participants opportunities to further develop core financial literacy concepts while making progress towards financial security and stability by establishing a rainy-day fund.
Financial Fitness 103 provides participants opportunities to learn more advanced financial knowledge and skills while focusing on long-term investing over a 15-month time frame.
As a key component of the Financial Fitness Series, young adults begin building their own financial security through savings. At the completion of each level, participants are expected to have saved a certain amount–and Friends of Children matches that savings. The savings goals evolve from being small and manageable, with savings goals of $100 in Financial Fitness 101 and $150 in Financial Fitness 102. Financial Fitness 103, a serious deep-dive into saving and investment, involves a savings goal of $4,500 over the course of five sections. This significant savings goal is matched upon completion by Friends of Children (with your support), and a young adult participant completing this course will have saved more than $9,000 in two years!
Our first cohort of participants in Financial Fitness is already experiencing financial empowerment in the Financial Fitness 101 class. With the valuable support of their coaches, our participants are learning more about themselves, their relationships with money, and their financial values. Our participants have been working on developing a budget and creating SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals, and setting realistic timeframes with straightforward steps that they can review.
We’re delighted to hear from our participants and coaches that the Financial Fitness process feels well paced and doable.
Artemis, a FOCUS program member and Financial Fitness participant asserts, “I am actively working with my coach on our financial fitness course. We are meeting roughly once per week. The slides within the course were very easy to read while providing decent information. Some sheets such as Personal Net Worth, Monthly Budget, and Federal Income Tax Calculator are particularly beneficial to me. I’m so glad that I’m on board.”
Edie, a Financial Fitness coach says, “So far I have found the program to be well designed, thought-provoking, and excellent at creating new connections with my mentees. The substance is presented in an understandable way, with clear next steps identified at each point. I think both my mentees are getting a lot out of it, and I am learning as well.”