Archive for July 2013

We have a new Program Coordinator!

Greetings! I am so thrilled to be writing this blog post as the newest addition to the Financial Beginnings team. I am Basha Gitnes, Financial Beginnings new Program Coordinator. A recent graduate from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) I earned my Bachelors of Science in Sociology and spent time interning with an organization similar to Financial Beginnings. Being a teacher had always been a dream of mine, but during my time in college I had come to realize that being in the classroom is not the only way I can instill valuable education in our youth. Focused on empowering our youth and teaching them how to take responsibility for their personal finances, I was immediately drawn to Financial Beginnings and their mission.

In addition to Financial Beginnings, I am currently a coach of the Milwaukie High School JV Dance Team. I have found it very rewarding to not only be a coach to these girls, but also a role model. I feel that it is very important that our youth are confident upon high school graduation, and I am honored to be a part of that through both Financial Beginnings and coaching.

Again, I am so excited to be a part of the Financial Beginnings family and reach the most students as possible!

Are the rewards worth it?

I admit it… Alec Baldwin sold me on the Capital One Venture card. I’ve had reward cards before, but I found, as many of us have, that it was difficult to cash in on the travel rewards. I moved away from the rewards for a while because I just didn’t feel like the rewards were very high.

I have been pleasantly surprised to find that utilizing the rewards on my Venture card really is as easy as Alec Baldwin promises. I’ve found it easiest to just use the purchase eraser instead of using the booking system.

I’m now putting everything on my Venture card so my points can wrack up. It averages a 2% return so for every $5000 I put on the card I get about $100 back.

But there is a trick to maximizing rewards……YOU MUST PAY THE BALANCE EVERY MONTH. As long as you are charging items that you know you can pay off at the end of the month it’s great. If you do not pay the balance then the interest will take away from your benefits.

Delayed flight could lead to a perk for your pocketbook

I love traveling, but I am not a big fan of the airports, airplanes and especially the cost.  I just spent the last week visiting my family in Wisconsin and now I am sitting in O’Hare International Airport in Chicago waiting for my connection back to Portland.  I will admit, O’Hare is my least favorite airport, however, in order to get the best deal on flights, I must submit to a connection in Chicago.  I am fortunate this time to not have any delays as I have had to spend the night in Chicago a few times.   The good thing is that when this has happened, the airlines put me up in a hotel and provided food vouchers.  Although it does bring it’s share of frustration when you only get a few hours of sleep before you return to the airport and go through security again and all you really want is to be at your destination.

I really can’t complain about the cost of the flight this time, as I did not have to pay for it.  The last time I visited my family I volunteered to get bumped due to my flight being overbooked.  This worked out well to my advantage as I had an extra day built in to my trip.  By taking the bump I got to spend an extra day with my family and received a substantial voucher.  The voucher paid for this current trip and most my flight for an upcoming trip to San Francisco.  This can be a great option for travelers, especially considering the increase cost of flying.  I would highly recommend this, especially if you are not in a hurry to get to your destination.  It just might pay for your next flight or allow you to take a trip you didn’t plan for in your budget.

Several organizations contribute to financial literacy during the 2nd quarter

PORTLAND, Ore., July 2, 2013Financial Beginnings, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides free financial education programs, announces grants received during the 2nd quarter of 2013 and a successful fundraising campaign which raised $20,000 in 20 days.

2nd Quarter Grant Awards

$20,000 from the Credit Association of the Pacific Northwest for Financial Beginnings’ Financial Foundations high school and young adult financial education program.

$15,000 from The Standard Charitable Foundation for Financial Beginnings’ Financial Footings elementary financial education program.

$13,400 from Meyer Memorial Trust for technology upgrades to increase volunteer capabilities.

$20,000 in 20 days

Financial Beginnings was faced with the challenge of raising $20,000 in 20 days in order to reach its fundraising goal for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.  Financial Beginnings was able to reach the goal of $20,000 in just 15 days thanks to contributions from volunteers, supporters and sizable contributions from Country Financial- $10,000, HomeStreet Bank- $5,000 and Unitus Community Credit Union- $1,800.

Financial Beginnings offers all of its programs free of charge and relies on the generosity of its supporters to cover program costs.  The $20,000 raised in this most recent campaign will provide 1,111 youth with Financial Beginnings’ financial literacy programs.

About Financial Beginnings

Formed in 2005 and based in Portland, OR, Financial Beginnings is a nonprofit organization that provides free financial education programs throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Financial Beginnings’ largest program educates youth and young adults in the basics of personal finance through visits to schools or community groups.  Financial Beginnings’ courses incorporate all aspects of personal finance to provide individuals the foundation needed to make informed financial decisions. More information is available at


Turning the lights on

Article submitted by volunteer, Susan D’Alessandro

As a 25 year veteran in the financial planning industry, I have seen many sad financial situations mainly due to lack of knowledge on how to manage the family budget.  Once I became aware of the existence of Financial Beginnings, I was very excited to come aboard and be a volunteer. I am pleased to say that after teaching 20 classes, I enjoy teaching the Budget Game the most. This class gets the students engaged quickly and keeps them engaged.

Here are a few tips I use to keep the class moving.  First I pair up the students or put them in a group of three depending on class size.  I also give each pair a job and salary using the options provided in our workbooks. Instead of posting the monthly expenses sheets around the room, I hold up the expenses one by one and have the pair/groups choose one from each selection for their budgets. This helps me control the timing and keeps the students focused.  It also allows me to walk around the room and see if any group is having a problem understanding the exercise. Once the main expenses are chosen, I have them sum up the expenses and see how much is left in their wallets. They usually feel pretty good about this point.  Then I continue to add expenses for utilities, entertainment, vacation, cell phone, health insurance and misc. repairs. Usually by the end there is no money left even for the pairs with the higher salaries paid using a paystubs creator software.

It is at this point that the lights come on in their minds that running a family budget is no easy thing. They begin to make comments about how their parents must have to work really hard to give them what they have. They also see that life is expensive and they get to make choices on how they spend their money.  I know that by volunteering with Financial Beginnings I am the one that has helped turn this light on for them and have helped them start down the path of making smart decision with their money.