Money School Rounds Out Its First Year
“Most of our clients have been systematically torn down by their abusers, who strive to make them believe they are worthless, that no one else loves or cares about them, and that they can’t make anything of their lives. Money School is a powerful antidote to this kind of messaging, one that provides survivors with the tools to generate economic recovery and independence.”
–Becca Bradburd, Director of Operations, Elizabeth Freeman Center
August marked the culmination of the first year of Money School, the collaborative financial education effort between AIER and Elizabeth Freeman Center, a Berkshire county-wide service center for domestic and sexual violence survivors. The program served 40 women from across the Berkshires in its first year.
Money School taught women how to work toward a big financial goal, such as going back to school or saving for future needs. We encouraged them to develop a, “My money, my choice” attitude toward finance and to use local resources – bankers, credit counselors, and other women who have gone through a similar experience – for support.
Money School is based on the idea that financial knowledge and more extensive networks of community resources contribute to the self-confidence needed to make better financial decisions for women who are leaving abusive relationships.
To help build these networks, in two of the weeks, one-on-one financial coaches from local banks provided individualized support in credit repair, banking and budgeting, and savings. We also had guest speakers discuss education, savings, and setting goals.
The program sought improvements in three areas: competence, confidence, and connections. Competence was measured by comparing scores on tests taken before and after Money School. Before the workshops, participants in one of the sites, North Adams, scored an average of 60 percent. Afterward, they scored an average of 71 percent.
Confidence also increased, as we noted through observations, questionnaires, and interviews. The workshops helped women see small opportunities to save money, empowering them to take pride in better short-term financial decisions that would help them in the long run.
We also observed informal and formal connections forged throughout the workshops. One woman expressed that the program made her feel like she wasn’t alone and that she could get support from other people who were “in the same place as [she] was.” Following the workshops, some women also met formally with their financial coaches to get more support, information, or tools.
Women who leave abusive relationships need social support. After all, many women stay in abusive relationships because they do not have the money or resources necessary to leave and establish another home. Money School helped the women who attended our workshops find people and resources to support them in taking charge of their own lives.