The Economic Awareness Council (EAC) provides financial capability programming to over 13,000 youth and family members each year. Their programs provide skills-based training on basic financial education concepts such as banking, saving, budgeting, credit, investing, and career development. Focusing on the application of financial education, behavior change and peer motivation, EAC provides students the opportunity to create their own budget, set savings goals, and make a financial plan. Students are given real opportunities to begin to bank and save at school.
In 2010, the EAC was selected to lead the first statewide teen and young adult focused saving initiative for the Consumer Federation of America‘s, America Saves program. Through Young Illinois Saves, an extension of the America Saves initiative, over 2,500 youth have set savings goals and pledged to save over $1,000,000 each year in aggregate. EAC has also helped over 500 youth open savings accounts for the first time.
A Story of Impact
Darianna attends a community school that is part of Young Illinois Saves. Darianna did not have a bank account nor had she saved previously. Through Young Illinois Saves, Darianna set a savings goal and created a financial plan while learning the basics of budgeting, banking, saving, credit and investing. She was trained in and excelled at providing younger students at her school with information about budgeting and saving. After being accepted at an internship through a Young Illinois Saves bank partner, Darianna completed an article about saving that was published nationally. Later, Darianna applied for and was accepted to another part time position after her internship and continues to visit the bank bi-weekly to deposit her savings.
Asset Building â€“ A Key Program Component
As EAC had more success stories like Darianna’s, asset building increasingly became more of a focus for the EAC. A significant percentage of the youth and their families the EAC serves are unbanked. These families traditionally use fringe financial products such as check cashing and payday lending to meet their basic banking needs. These non-mainstream banking services come with much higher fees which further strain their already limited resources. The EAC has found that offering youth the access to financial tools to bank and save in a practical experience has been critical. Furthermore, providing a class the opportunity to bank and save motivates the entire class and helps to create a culture of learning and saving as students learn from their peers.