The way people earn, save and spend money is changing, says UCI anthropology and law professor Bill Maurer - but financial literacy education has failed to keep pace. With a $100,000 gift from Wells Fargo, he’s hoping to change that. 

“Secure a salaried job. Save earnings in the bank. Buy a home. This used to be the recipe for achieving the ‘American Dream,’ but times are changing,” says Maurer who also directs the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) at UCI. Nearly half of working Americans report having a side hustle to help make ends meet. Roughly the same number are estimated to be credit invisible – meaning they lack credit scores or are unscorable due to limited information about their financial habits, preventing access to quality credit essential for buying a home. And in Orange County, home ownership is increasingly out of reach for first time buyers as available supply tends to favor the wealthy.

With this in mind, Maurer and UCI anthropology graduate student Nandita Badami convened a workshop in June targeting Orange County non-profit organizations that serve low-income housing residents, undocumented workers, and survivors of domestic abuse. Through interactive discussions, presentations and games, participants learned new approaches for incorporating 21st century financial literacy skills into resources for their communities.

Presenters included the National Endowment for Financial Education, Next Gen Personal Finance, Brain Arts Production and others. They shared online tools, strategies and resources on everything from budgeting – via an interactive grocery shopping experience – to home buying simulations.

“It’s really important that those in our communities serving populations in need of these resources have access to the latest pedagogical tools and research in the field so that they can better serve their constituents,” says Badami.

Livi Kerszenbaum, associate director of income and place-based initiatives at Orange County United Way, attended the June workshop.

“We had the opportunities to learn from experts in our field and to connect with others working in Orange County’s financial stability community,” she says. “Our day-to-day activities are so busy that attending gatherings such as this one is important. These conferences provide the time and space to focus on learning about the most recent financial trends and to expand the tools we have to better serve our clients.”

The 60 people in attendance representing 29 non-profits are now in the process of submitting plans for new – or bolstered existing - financial education programs and initiatives within their organizations. Maurer and team will review and provide expert feedback to help shape the projects to most effectively serve community needs.

“Wells Fargo is grateful for a partnership with UCI and Dean Maurer and the Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) to support nonprofit organizations scale out or create their financial education capacity,” says Linda Nguyen, vice president of community relations focusing on community development with Wells Fargo. “We are pursuing this effort not only because the community’s financial health and well-being is part of our DNA but this is in response to the need expressed by organizations. The nonprofit staff see individuals and families as well as know them and what services can contribute to strengthen their social mobility. Achieving economic prosperity cannot be realized without these nonprofit organizations creating and delivering financial education programs.”

“We're really happy that we can lend our expertise to the many terrific nonprofits serving the underserved in Orange and LA Counties,” says Maurer.

Visit the IMTFI blog to read more about the event, and to view pictures from the day’s activities online.

-Heather Ashbach, UCI School of Social Sciences
-pictured: Bill Maurer, social sciences dean presenting at the June 28 workshop. Photo courtesy of AntMedia, UCI Student Center Event Services.

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