Archive for March 2011

Financial Beginnings Press Release

Media Contact
Casey Boggs

Financial Beginnings Celebrates ‘Money Smart Week’ With Panel Discussion Featuring Oregon’s Top Financial Experts

PORTLAND, Ore., March 30, 2011— Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides free financial education to children and young adults, has partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Oregon Jump$tart and Operation HOPE to celebrate Money Smart Week—April 2–9. Money Smart Week is designed to educate consumers about money management and features a variety of free financial education programs ranging from budgeting, saving and using credit wisely.

As part of Money Smart Week, Financial Beginnings will host a panel discussion featuring Oregon’s top financial experts covering timely financial issues. Moderated by The Oregonian’s Columnist Brent Hunsberger, the panel will field audience questions and offer advice on various financial topics including ways to pay down debt and how to save for college. The panel discussion will be April 7 at 6 p.m. at Portland State University’s Smith Memorial Union (1825 SW Broadway) room 327.

Panelists include:

Michael Parker, executive director of the Oregon College Savings Plan
Diane Childs, financial information outreach coordinator at the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities
Fernando Velez, consumer information specialist at the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities
Nelson Rutherford, CPA and certified financial planner at Alten, Sakai & Co
Jim Hunt, chief financial officer, OnPoint Community Credit Union

Financial Beginnings is also partnering with the Portland Business Alliance Leadership Portland group to host Dollars & $ense, a free family financial fair for low-income families, on April 9 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The fair will be held at Friends of the Children (44 NE Morris in Portland) and will include sessions on basic budgeting for families and how to teach children to save.

Specific information on Money Smart Week and the financial fair is available at

About Financial Beginnings
Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides multi-session courses, free of charge, to students and young adults throughout the Pacific Northwest through visits to their individual schools or community groups. The courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at

First Classroom Experience — Part 3

One gal screamed out, “I want Just Bieber!” Her male classmate yelled out in response, “I want Megan Fox.” I reluctantly added these to the white board next to items like shoes, clothing, iPod, and Xbox. I failed to specific that the goal was to list out items we wanted and we needed that had a monetary value.

The next session, Banking, went relatively well. During this session, I taught the students how to fill out a deposit slip, a withdrawal slip, how to use a check register, and how to write I check. I was impressed how many students already knew how to write a check. I used this to my advantage by asking a student to come up and show the class. Since, I have recognized that allowing the students to teach the class in this way is an effective teaching technique. It gives the students more ownership of the material and a better chance at retaining it.

A common asked by our volunteers is why we teach students about check books, and registers when they are on their way out. My answer is two-fold: first, we teach the students about writing checks because they will have to write a check in their life even if it’s less than in the old days. Second, knowing how to use a check register exemplifies proper money management techniques of budgeting and record keeping. While they may never use a register, they will need to master these techniques to take control their financial future.

Since we provide each student with a check register, I had to explain how to use it. Unfortunately, I have never used a register since I write so few checks! To underscore the importance of a check register, I explain to the class how I sometimes receive checks from family, work, or friends and I can go months without cashing them. They understood what it means to bounce a check which helped me convince them of the need to keep track of outstanding checks.

Side note: The check registers have been a source of continuous embarrassment for me. At a difference school, one student asked me what the check mark column was was on the check register. I honestly had no idea! I have never used it, so their teacher chimed in and we all learned it was for noting the purchase as tax deductible. In the same class, I then showed them how to put the check register and the checkbook into the little blue case. I never keep my checkbook in the case (let alone with a register) so I put it in upside down and the teacher called me out on it.

At the close of our second hour together the students felt very comfortable with me. One student even gave me the nick name: “J money.” This friendliness was a sign of the chaos to come during our third session together.

The Evolution of Managing My Money

While I was moving into my new home I found a box with some of old notebooks from about 10 years ago which I used to keep track of my finances in. It was an eye opener for me how differently I managed my money then. I used to spend hours planning out money for the coming months, writing down each paycheck and the bills that would be paid out of it, logging my loans and deducting the principle each time I made a payment, and hand writing out my budget.

In addition to the notebook I would also enter every transaction into Microsoft Money, categorize it appropriately and carefully watch how I was tracking to my budget during the month. This made it incredibly easy for me to do my taxes at the end of the year or identify areas that I could cut back on to create more funds in my budget. It was Microsoft Money that informed me that I was spending $80 a month at the coffee cart by my house and that I should kick my coffee habit.

It made me think how my money management has changed over the years. I no longer keep a notebook or use Microsoft Money. Being recently married we still are working to find the groove in how to handle our money and we’ve been able to create some processes and find some tools that have really helped us. Still, I am realizing that possibly due to having time and a larger comfort level in what I’m doing I am not spending the time and keeping the same level of details I did 10 years ago. Since I’m one of those that really enjoys working out my budget and scrutinizing over where each penny I spend goes I wonder if I should maybe revert back to my old ways a bit?

First Classroom Experience — Part 2

Even though I was not sure if the kids were laughing at me or my joke, I moved on with my lesson plan. I first wanted to teach the class some ideas about money. While money is perceived as a very simple concept, I asked the class: What is money? I received answers like, “money is green”, “money is good”, and “money can get you things.” These were all right answers but not what I was looking for.

Following my lesson plan, I proceeded to explain to the class the characteristics of money.
Has anyone ever had a homework assignment get wet? What happens to it? It turns to mush because it’s made of paper. Well what is money made out of?

No one knows the right answers, so I go to explain how it’s made of cotton and linen and ask: What happens if money gets wet, does it turn to mush?

They begin to understand. So then I explain – one characteristic of money is that it is durable. If money was not durable then people would not value it.

In the light of my poorly told joke, I attempt to explain the next concept, that money must be divisible. I ask: What if you had a cow and I had two sheep, but you only wanted one sheep, what should be done? One student asserts that we should cut the cow in half, the class laughs. I say, you could do that but what if it’s a milk cow. This leads me to explain that money must be divisible, or else someone is going to lose out in every transaction.

Lastly, I want to explain that money must be transportable. If money was not transportable it would be very difficult and time consuming to make transactions. What if I had to carry a bag of gems to the store to buy food? I could but that would be inefficient.

We then talk about bartering and trading for a few minutes, some students shock me with their knowledge of the early forms of money — such as sea shells.

For the next part of my lesson, I seek to have the students distinguish between needs and wants. I was shocked to hear some of the crazy things they want, stay tuned to find out what they were.

Tenants in Foreclosure- Are they really out of foreclosure?

Now settling into my new home I am beginning to get back into my normal Sunday routine of drinking my coffee and reading the paper. There are only a few sections that I read; the front page, the business section and the travel section.

Brent Hunsberger has two great articles today. The article on the front page, Hundreds of Foreclosure Sales Halted caught by eye because the home that I recently rented and recently moved out of was in foreclosure.

The article talks about how lenders have withdrawn hundreds of foreclosure sales since February after there have been several questions on the legality of the process.

After months of my calling the trustee several times to continually hear that the home I was renting was still in foreclosure and then finding the day that I closed on the purchase of a new home that the case was closed. I was so surprised since by my estimation the home had a negative equity of approximately $200,000. I couldn’t image how the landlords who now lived out of state would be able to maintain this as a viable rental. Still, after hearing that the foreclosure case was withdrawn I assumed they must have worked something out with the bank. Now I’m questioning that. Do you think it was one of the homes that Bank of America withdrew?

First Classroom Experience – Part 1

My first time teaching financial education was an experience that I will never forget. The class was an 8th grade middle school class and the topic was Budgeting. While I had been a student almost all my life, I had never presented in front of a class for more than 15 minutes – and that was my senior thesis. While I had my worries, I was able to reduce my anxiety by prepping a detailed lesson plan.

When I walked into the classroom the students were really happy to see me. First, I explained the purpose of our financial literacy program, why I was there, and the topics we would be covering. I waited for the class to fill, the teacher introduced me and I started following my lesson plan.
In the spirit of my favorite college professor, the first part of my lesson was to tell a joke. I wanted to show the students that I was fun. As it was supposed to be told the joke should have been as follows:

“A man walking along a road in the countryside comes across a shepherd and a huge flock of sheep. He tells the shepherd, ‘I will bet you $100 against one of your sheep that I can tell you the exact number in this flock.’ The shepherd thinks it over; it’s a big flock so he takes the bet. ‘973,’ says the man. The shepherd is astonished, because that is exactly right. Says ‘OK, I’m a man of my word, take an animal.’ The man picks one up and begins to walk away.

‘Wait,’ cries the shepherd, ‘Let me have a chance to get even. Double or nothing that I can guess your exact occupation.’ The man says sure. ‘You are an economist for a government think tank,’ says the shepherd. ‘Amazing!’ responds the man, ‘You are exactly right! But tell me, how did you deduce that?’

“Well,” says the shepherd, “put down my dog and I will tell you.’”

I completely butchered it by half giving away the punch the line and the only person who laughed was the teacher. The students somewhat laughed after the teacher let out a sarcastic laugh. Read next week to find out more…