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Hayner: Getting 'financially fit' with Bridge Communities

Community voice

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT
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John Hayner

Bridge Communities is excited to launch the “Financial Fitness” workshop series, in collaboration with the DuPage Home Ownership Center and DuPage Habitat for Humanity. We also thank DuPage Community Foundation for their vision and leadership in initiating the partnership, and for their work to help secure funding.

The program is designed to convey common knowledge of financial literacy to low-income families. These include building skills for successful banking, household budgeting, responsible consumer credit and debt management, smart shopping, and consistent saving. Why? To empower said families with the knowledge to lift them out of poverty and secure a financial self-empowered future.

Yet, what we’ve come to understand, in just the pilot phase of this program, is that “common” isn’t as common as our partnership had believed. Much of the curriculum in Financial Fitness is truly eye-opening for us all. We have quickly learned that what we don’t know turns out to be a great deal.

Those of us who are baby boomers may have had the good fortune of being raised by parents who had known only frugality in their early years, and we modeled their best habits of budgeting or spending. Or perhaps for several decades we benefited from good to booming economies, and have not had the experience of living on very tight budgets.

Younger generations have not been so fortunate, and it is our obligation to provide young families the financial management tools to thrive in a very uncertain future. In an ironic role reversal, it may be our low-income students in the financial fitness program who teach the rest of us about frugality and austerity.

Bridge and its partners sincerely hope that the small steps we are taking today will lead to giant steps tomorrow, and that what we learn together about financial literacy can truly come to be “common knowledge” throughout the generations. We will invite many others to join us in this process. With 17 percent of our citizens living below the poverty line, we owe it to next generations to become financially fit.

John Hayner is the CEO of Bridge Communities

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