No matter how much money we have or don't have, most of us are always seeking new and improved methods of managing our personal finances and for good reason. It has always been a head scratcher as to how finding "x" in certain concepts can be a education requirement yet learning how to budget your personal finances has become a lost art or a lost subject at that. This disparity in financial education is what drew my interest to my fellowship at Financial Beginnings (FB) - Oregon.
As the first ever fellow to join the nonprofit bringing financial education to the Pacific Northwest, my charge was to execute focus groups in efforts to improve youth programming. Financial Beginnings has been educating its participants since 2006 and has been doing great work by recruiting volunteers from the finance industry to teach classes focused on Investing, Banking, Risk Management, Credit and Budgeting. The work FB is doing is bridging the information gap. When I sit through a presentation frantically writing notes in the back of the room, I tend to think to myself, “Where was this information when I was in college? Regardless, as we move to educate and inform the next generation of our missteps, this type of knowledge is pivotal in shaping not only their frame of reference but also their quality of life.
I tend to think to myself, “Where was this information when I was in college?"
The largest portion of my fellowship was my responsibility of executing student focus groups. The duty allowed me to learn some intricacies of qualitative research that may serve as a useful tool outside of the fellowship, which is very exciting. The purpose of the focus group was to incorporate the voices of our participants so FB can fine-tune programming to better fit their needs. Well, the research was a success. As the students transparently shared their concerns, we were able to identify some common themes in FB presentations that, if fine-tuned, can improve the effectiveness of the programming.
Moreover, the class shadows brought together my perspective for the fellowship experience. Being able to visit different classrooms in Portland, Beaverton, Tigard and Gresham allowed me to be observant of the different knowledge bases, conversations and lived experiences of students across Oregon. In addition, it is also a great indicator of the personal finance information that students get at home which can starkly set them apart from those that get little to nothing at home. I remember in one of my first class visits to a school, I asked the class what they knew about investing. One student raised his hand and proceeded to talk about his Bitcoin stock and diversifying his portfolio. My follow up question was if he had ten minutes at lunch time for a quick consultation. All jokes aside, it was inspiring to see how just having the resource of proper information from his father put him multiple steps ahead of his peers.
Looking back, the fellowship came and left pretty quickly but not without making an impression on my professional life. The networks I was able to tap, information I was exposed to and the skills I was able to learn will hopefully serve as some type of currency in the long run. Nonetheless, in the present time, I was able to expose myself to a place, people and educational sector that I have grown increasingly invested in. As I map out the next steps of my life journey, I am excited to incorporate the new possibilities that are in store.