Partner Spotlight: Center for Changing Lives

This post is written by Ellen Ray, the Executive Director of the Center for Changing Lives. She will be speaking about their new two generational model at IABG’s upcoming partner convening on October 21. Don’t miss out – take a look at the agenda and save your spot!

One of my very first memories of money is that my parents would give me an allowance of $1. It was always given to me in four quarters. One quarter went into a little savings vessel that looked like a church. That quarter was for tithing. One quarter went into a traditional piggy bank. That was for savings. And the final two quarters were mine to spend.

My recollection of this practice may be fuzzy and while I aspire to save 25% of my household’s gross income, I often fall short. What is indisputable, though, is that I was taught money lessons at a very young age and those money lessons have persisted, shaping my money habits, even today.

As an organization focused on ensuring that all have the economic means to achieve their goals and dreams for themselves and their families, how does Center for Changing Lives (CCL) respond to the reality that our money values and habits are shaped in early childhood? How do we incorporate research that indicates early action taken on children savings can effect outcomes over a lifetime: Low- and moderate-income children with dedicated college savings of between $1 – $499 are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate from college than those without savings.[1] Finally, if we know that both wealth and poverty can persist generationally, how are our interventions to increase the financial capability of households focused on multiple generations?

In this regard, CCL is indebted to the work of CFED, the Aspen Institute, and many service providers across the country for the emerging research on a promising model: a two-generation approach to asset building. CCL is putting its own twist on two generation frameworks, in partnership with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For the next two years, CCL’s Financial Coach will partner with five Early Childhood Centers in the Logan Square and Humboldt Park communities of Chicago to bring whole family financial coaching into the early childhood context.

Through group and one on one engagements, CCL’s Financial Coach works with households to engage children and their parents in culturally and developmentally-appropriate financial education, resource parents with tools and strategies for whole family money conversations, and develop and foster action on whole family financial goals and plans. CCL’s two generation work also leverages its efforts to partner with banks to foster neighborhood financial stability. Families are connected with savings vehicles and products that foster the development of assets, particularly those dedicated to college savings.

Whatever means used to teach money lessons – through quarters, marshmallows, chores, or groceries – parents are children’s first teachers. We believe in the power and promise of parents and children learning and acting to transform their lives, their families and our communities. It is only through our collective action that we can build a community where everyone thrives.


[1] Building Expectations, Delivering Results: Asset-Based Financial Aid and the Future of Higher Education (2013). The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, Assets & Education Initiative.

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