How pre-employment financial literacy can help

Financial literacy classes form an essential ingredient for the employment preparation program offered at Inn  From the Cold (IFTC), a sanctuary serving homeless and at-risk Canadians in Newmarket, Ontario.

IFTC employment manager Ray Rauth has seen some of country's most vulnerable put their lives back on track after getting their heads around money management skills -- a topic that isn't taught in most classrooms or discussed in many households.

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Financial literacy at work

Sidebar: High demand for financial literacy has the government and nonprofits offering learning opportunities in the workplace.

Rauth recalls how workplace financial literacy training motivated one homeless participant to not only find -- and keep -- a job. Mark (whose name is changed and withheld for privacy reasons) constantly owed money for cash advances and would "couch surf" at shelters or friends' homes.

Trapped in a debt spiral, Mark was often fired from jobs due to anger management issues, which were intensified by financial stress and complicated by denial.

"Mark's answer to his financial problems was that if he made more money he would be fine," says Rauth.

Mark's ‘aha' moment came during IFTC's personal budgeting classes, which inspired him to reflect upon the real reasons for his money problems. He concluded that his income was not the problem, but rather the way he spent his money. After learning how to budget properly and marshalling the self-discipline to stick with his new financial plan, Mark is now very close to paying off all his debt and has been employed for over a year and half.

Financial literacy helped Mark mitigate stress and in turn control his emotions. According to Rauth, not having financial troubles has enabled Mark to control his temper and allowed him to work with a clear mind.

"He is very happy at work now because he no longer worries about his wages because his money is accounted for," says Rauth.

Asked to assess the overall effectiveness of the employment-related financial literacy training, Rauth says he has observed some remarkable changes in attitude. He remembers that before the course most participants had no idea how to set up a budget, use coupons or even cared about their credit.

After the money management training, it's a much different story. "Attendees appreciate the material presented and now have a better understanding of why these things are so important -- they all love to talk about their budgets and how they have changed them since taking the class," notes Rauth.
Published July 10, 2014

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