On April 11 the GIlmor Boys and Girls Club held a financial literacy class for children within Baltimore’s Sandtown- Winchester area in order to raise awareness about fiscal responsibility. Sheree Vasey, along with her husband Paul Vasey, came to the Gilmore Community center to discuss different ways kids could save money and make healthy financial decisions.
“We’d like to give students the opportunity to start conversations about money. In many cases in schools there is no financial literacy taught to kids and everyone uses money once they get out of school. Kids get credit cards and take out loans and get into debt and that stuff can follow them for the rest of their lives,” Sheree Vasey told the AFRO. “If we can start early and get kids thinking about spending habits early and really push the idea of saving money as opposed to spending everything you earn that’ll set them up for life to be healthy consumers.”
Vasey recommends that parents start speaking to their kids about finances and basic ideas about money around age six and suggests involving them in grocery store trips and other tasks centered around shopping so that they can learn about how much things cost and setting up a budget.
The Vasey’s work with Cash Crunch games, a company that makes games geared towards children and families used to facilitate conversation about fiscal responsibility.
“People are nervous about talking about money. Nobody wants to say how much they make or how much they spend and kids don’t know financially what goes on in their homes. We figured if we bring it into the gaming environment kids can play with parents and discuss theoretical issues in a non-threatening way that may actually relate to their real lives,” said Sheree Vasey.
Both Sheree and Paul Vasey emphasized that financial literacy begins in the home and offered advice for not only children but adults in order to encourage healthy spending habits.
“Save first and spend later. Start putting aside money every paycheck so you can get used to spending a lesser amount while saving. If you want to shop around, comparison shop, find the lowest price and don’t shop on impulse. Take financial responsibility because no one will bail you out or fix the problem, you’re going to be your best advocate in keeping yourself financially healthy,” said Sheree Vasey.
Ebony Orr, who has worked with the program since last year, highlighted the importance of financial literacy in communities like that of Sandtown.
“Financial literacy is important mainly because they’re in an environment where money isn’t always around and it’s used for the wrong reasons. I’ve been in stores where they didn’t even have a card machine. A lot of people in this area don’t have credit cards or bank accounts or savings accounts so all they (the kids) see is cash, cash, cash they see how its spent but financial literacy helps them to learn to make wiser decisions for themselves when they have money,” Orr told the AFRO.
Paula Goddard , founder of the Horizons Youth Program, created the financial literacy program at the Gilmor Boys and Girls Club and believes that classes like this can really make a difference in the lives of participants. “I thought that it’s really important that disenfranchised youth and people who come from difficult backgrounds to feel empowered and I feel that economic empowerment is really the key to helping these children to have a better quality of life. For children in Sandtown, Park Heights and different areas across Baltimore economic empowerment increases the quality of their lives and can even save their lives and it helps them to learn to invest in their neighborhoods and it teaches them not only financial literacy but also entrepreneurship,” Goddard told the AFRO.