Teaching refugee families financial literacy is essential to helping them achieve self-sufficiency and independence in the United States. We recommend understanding your refugee family’s financial situation prior to assisting them with financial literacy.
Refugees do receive funding from the government, but it is a small amount and doesn’t last very long. It is important for mentors to stress the need to seek out employment as soon as possible, as the refugee family cannot rely on this funding for very long. Each refugee family receives funding according to the following formula:
STEPS & RESOURCES
1. Access the financial literacy handbook below. See if there are copies in your refugee family’s native language.
2. Discuss when their cash assistance program ends, and how their family will get money.
3. Discuss how the family feels about having a bank account. Was it safe to have a bank account in their home country? Do they have any concerns about the American banking system?
4. (Denver Only) Discuss matched saving programs. If they are interested in saving, they can qualify to have their savings matched with the following programs:
- Community Enterprise Development Services, Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): A 1-1 (total of $2,000) matching program for purchasing a house, starting, rehabilitating, or expanding a business, helping fund post-secondary education tuition and fees, and purchasing a vehicle for employment.
- Mile High United Way IDAs: A 4-1 matching program (total of $5,000) for purchasing a home, starting, rehabilitating, and/or expanding a business, and helping fund post-secondary education tuition and fees.
5. Set up a bank account. Check with the bank first about the requirements they have for new accounts. Free checking and savings accounts are recommended. Make sure they first have a Colorado ID.
6. Teach how to use checks, or an ATM. Talk about needs vs. wants, loans, credit cards, etc.
7. Teach simple budgeting (keeping track of expenses, anticipating expenses, understanding income, etc.)
8. Teach the value of US currency (in comparison with home currency, what a dollar can buy, how much work it takes to earn a dollar, etc.)
9. Go shopping and show them how to find the cheapest items (off-brands, per ounce price, etc.) and to avoid expensive extras like soda and candy.
FINANCIAL LITERACY HANDBOOK
Our financial literacy handbook is a great way to introduce our refugee families into the world of finance. In the handbook you will find overviews of different aspects of finance, various activities, and goal setting paperwork.
We have the financial literacy book in English, but also in multiple other languages. It would be a good idea to print a handbook in the family’s native language (if available) and work side by side with them through the book.