The True Costs of Poverty

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James Baldwin

Iyon Johnson

The prevailing theory in America is that impoverished people simply make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. The science suggests otherwise: the financial reality of poverty is often one of desperation and exhaustion, not irrationality. As Science Magazine reports, merely having less is enough to make financial decision-making difficult. This effect can be reduced by developing financial literacy through education and training in partnership with traditional housing resources.

This is the goal of the Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB). They empower low and moderate income residents of the Greater DC area to take control of their finances, increase their savings, and build wealth for the future. Beginning September 15th, THC and CAAB co-hosted ‘Money Management 101,’ a series of financial literacy classes intended to support our families and their economic stability.

The five two-hour sessions took place in the small, intimate environment of Ambassador Baptist Church. The classes are designed to cater to the needs of this community but can include a wide range of financial topics such as setting financial goals, developing and managing a spending plan, choosing financial products and services, understanding credit, managing debt, saving for college, understanding the basics of investing, and saving for the achievement of a financial goal.

100% of THC families have low to extremely low incomes meaning that (depending on family size) most of the families we serve make less than $30,000 per year. 22% of families are working at low paying jobs upon entry, and most have limited job skills and little formal education. For these individuals, their long-term goals vary from saving for their children’s education to the dream of home ownership. These classes demystify financial processes and empower students to rise out of the financial cycles that perpetuate poverty. As CAAB alumna Jazzy Wright shared, “By taking the mystery and technical jargon out of financial education, the CAAB program gave me the information I needed to make smart financial decisions.”

Financial literacy is a difficult skill to acquire, even for those not currently struggling with homelessness. As Jazzy said, “The CAAB program changed my life for the better, and I recommend that any person, young or old, black or white, take the class. It’s never too late to learn critical money management skills!”

Post by Christine Janumala

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