PLAY participants and YTEP trainers working on an assignment
In an office building penthouse with 360 degree views of San Francisco, two groups of young people taught each other, and us, why it is so important to start saving your money young.
You can’t wait until you’re like, fifty, because “that’s hella old.” So spoken by one of the girls participating Friday's training for PLAY, the singular prize-linked youth savings program (description attached). The first of its kind in the nation, PLAY is run by the Mission SF Community Financial Center, the non-profit arm of the Mission SF Federal Credit Union.
About fifteen young women gathered to complete the second training session of the program. They are each putting away $35 of their monthly earnings from non-profit partner GirlSource’s Technology and Leadership program
. Each group decides upon the amount to be deposited into savings each month, and each timely deposit enters the saver into the lottery for a grand prize. Each participant sets his or her own savings goals. In this case, those included money for bus fare to Los Angeles, prom, books for college, baby's birthday, and "hair from Ebonies." Worthy goals, all - hair is expensive!
City Treasurer Jose Cisneros came to show his support (watch a portion of his remarks
here) before the training began, thanking these young people – both the trainers and the savers - for their participation. But he stayed to answer their questions.
There were no softballers here. ‘How much money does the City have, today?’ (It’s around 3.5 billion dollars.) ‘Where is it?’ ‘Where does it all come from, exactly?’ ‘How long will that last?’ ‘How is transit funded?’
That's the simple beauty of what’s called “Youth Peer-to-Peer Financial Training." On one side of the table, you have intelligent, committed PLAYers (savers in the Prize Linked Accounts for Youth Program) learning what compound interest is, and becoming comfortable dealing with credit unions, direct deposit, and other financial information (and with grilling the Treasurer of San Francisco about what cash reserves are). See what this looks like in this 55-second mininterview with one of the savers
And on the other side, you have intelligent, committed YTEPers (Youth Trainers for Economic Power) getting work and presentation experience, and becoming experts on saving, finance, and financial justice issues. Oh, and when they talk about how good it is to save, their peers don’t hear “waaawaawaa.” YTEPer Amy Li explains, in this video
The trainer-saver interaction is based on equality, and it’s a beautiful contrast to how some might think high school students treat each other.
Margaret Libby, the Community Financial Center
's Executive Director, said that having youth set their own goals, and youth trainers deliver the save-and-empower message are crucial to the success of the program. With each short-term accomplishment, young people can get more and more used to saving. It's a habit most people twice their age haven't picked up, and that has long-term implications for wealth building and economic prosperity in our country.
Young women of color, from low income communities, saving, learning, and empowering themselves and others? Credit unions, advocates, and community non profits partnering to that end? If these young people succeed, this sort of thing could become so commonplace that it will no longer be called 'singular.' Every city, every Treasurer's office, could PLAY.
The Youth Trainers for Economic Power ended their session by asking each saver about their heads, hearts, and feet - what was learned, how they felt, and what actions they would take. I learned that more is possible than I thought. I felt refreshed by the experience, and wished I knew how to tell these young people that -yes!- people are paying attention to what you're doing here. And I resolved to finally move my savings from an online bank to a Sacramento Credit Union.