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Growing Financial Capability and Expanding Prospects for Rappahannock Students and Their Families

Posted by
Piggy bank

Many graduating high school students leave their senior year without meaningful comprehension of financial matters.  They go into the larger world without the tools and judgment necessary to successfully negotiate banking, borrowing, credit, savings, and investment challenges as simple as budgeting, buying on credit, using credit and debit cards, and achieving home ownership.  At the same time, skills essential to a stable financial life are essential to personal success: setting goals, weighing choices, balancing wants and needs, and handling challenges.  

Rappahannock provides many wonders for young -- and old -- but growing up here can sometimes feel far removed from the "action" arenas of urban settings.  Leaving the nest can seem daunting to some, who are unsure about what options are available to them, as well as how they might go about pursuing those that interest them.  While there are programs and projects designed to help expand students' thinking on these matters, the question of how to acquire and best use assets necessary to achieve them remains largely unanswered.  Connecting "what can I do?" and "how do I achieve it?" is an important part of financial maturity.  

In many instances, a student's family may not be able to provide the basics for financial literacy or model smart financial choices in an increasingly complex world; and, indeed, many would benefit from additional resources to help them navigate their own financial lives, as well as provide helpful guidance to their offspring.  

Our Vision

FamilyFutures seeks to enable graduating classes of RCPS students to consider and attain post-secondary life, education, and career goals.  All RCPS students will have equal opportunities within the program to learn, to grow, and to build a financial base from which to pursue their life objectives; and they will have equal access to financial education that will give them a strong start in their lives as independent earning, spending, saving, and investing citizens.  

How We Achieve the Vision

Based on research and conversations with knowledgeable players in the education, finance, and child-rearing fields (including some who actually are rearing children today!), we believe the following items will benefit our young people:

  • providing each entering RCPS student with a MyFuturet Savings Account, seeded annually through nonprofit contributions, and enhanced through each student's own efforts and achievements;

  • providing student account holders with regular statements of their balances, showing growth through interest, incentive, and other deposits that reflect each student's conduct and accomplishments in school and out;

  • encouraging students to think about how their savings should be used, and requiring each student to present a plan for use of the funds upon graduation, whether for further education, training, or career investments leading to financial stability;

  • expanding existing efforts to provide financial literacy through the schools by complementing teacher-inspired additions to current programs; and

  • offering students' families opportunities to learn, collectively and individually, from a fully-trained and certified financial counselor, who can help them identify and implement their own goals in family finance, such as planning; saving for major purchases; dealing with credit issues; or saving for future events, for example, college "529" accounts, retirement, and medical expenses.

The program is assisted on both student and adult financial learning fronts by a trained and certified financial professional, drawn from Rappahannock County, and trained through funding from FamilyFutures.  

Savings Accounts as Tools for Learning

The MyFuture accounts are a critical element to engage and actively reward students as they mature in their financial understanding and demonstrate behaviors more likely to promote academic, career, and personal successes.  The accounts are not the end but a means to the end of students prepared to succeed. Research has shown that students who have a little as $500 in savings are three times more likely to enroll in postsecondary education and four times more likely to complete it. The effect is not due to the dollar amounts involved, but to the future orientation generated in the students themselves, which, in turn, promotes growth of those essential skills described above.  

In an ideal world, families would themselves set up accounts and demonstrate long-term savings behavior, but this is not an ideal world.  There is a significant percentage of households in Rappahannock who are either unbanked or underbanked themselves, who live in primarily a cash economy; and who, for a variety of reasons -- from limited income or education to plain bad luck-- are unable to exert much control over their financial lives.  Students in these families have little opportunity to think long-term about their futures and even less experience in determining a course for themselves through their own choices.  For some, even completing the application for Federal financial aid is prohibited by their families, who will not provide the required documentation.

MyFuture Accounts, with FamilyFutures as custodian, will ensure that these -- and all -- students have access to a nest egg that grows with them and with their responsibility for their own choices. FamilyFutures certainly encourages families to set up their own savings for household priorities, including their children’s futures, as part of our financial education offerings for parents.  At the same time, no student should be denied access to the opportunity to earn by demonstrating growth in financial skills and personal judgment for the long term.    

MyFuture Accounts under the FamilyFutures program are the first of their kind in our state, and one of the few in the country in a rural area like Rappahannock County.  MyFuture Accounts will allow all our students to make the connection between “what can I do” and “how I can achieve it.”
 

For more information on financial education for students and families, email us: info@family-futures.org.

 

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Mail checks to: Family Futures, Box 570, Sperryville, VA 22740

FamilyFutures is a tax exempt charity under Section 501(c)3.  
Gifts are fully deductible as allowed by law.  Please consult your tax adviser.

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