Alumni Profile: Sara Money
Posted by: DVULI | August 22, 2022
by Audra Beaty (San Antonio 2022)
► ALUMNI: Sara Money (Albuquerque 2015)
► ORGANIZATION: Money & ME
► CURRENT POSITION: Director and Developer
Tell us about your youth program and how you fulfill its mission.
Money & Me is a financial literacy program designed to help low-income youth and young adults manage their finances. We provide nonprofit organizations with a specialized curriculum that marries behavioral change and financial wellness for people living on food stamps or social security. Our system uniquely targets necessary behavioral changes commonly leading to systemic finance mismanagement and poverty. We train representatives from the nonprofits to know their audience and sensitively deliver the curriculum using our highly tailored tools. To date, the program has been conducted in 13 states.
Why do you think God has called you to this work?
In my prior work for the State of New Mexico, I conducted home visits for welfare recipients who were applying for income assistance. Often, I would see, for example, a big screen TV on a lease-to-own payment plan but no food in the refrigerator.
Financial wellness education needed to look different for this audience, and God moved in me to help. He broke my heart, pushed me forward, leveraged my gifts, and allowed me the time to devise a customized solution for low-income families with no other financial training option. I originally wrote the curriculum to promote behavioral change, but 10 years later, it has evolved into a highly tailored financial education program that is now taught nationwide.
God wastes nothing. My master's degree in counseling and years of substance abuse counseling afforded me a different perspective required to understand the families we served. Drinking, drug, smoking, and gambling habits were often common financial drains in many households. I'm a systems thinker and asked myself, "Where's the breakdown in the system?" The existing financial literacy programs that speak to investments, 401Ks, dining out, and vacations aren't meeting people where they are at in these communities.
What do you hope to accomplish as you serve in this capacity?
Our program fills a unique need for organizations that serve people in need. Paid for by participating organizations, this free benefit helps low-income people create sustainable healthy financial habits to set them and their children up for a better life. I have seen first-hand the many success stories of individuals who have learned to take control of their money and lives through the Money & Me program. With every success story, it is praise to God!
What challenges have you or the ministry had to overcome?
I did not study finance, so writing finance curriculum was very challenging! It's an iterative laboring process with many updates. The budget worksheet may look simple now, but it was a challenge that took me four years to complete. The trainers would tell me how participants responded to the content, what they understood, and which parts were confusing. I kept rewriting and working to improve it. My trainers reported seeing the "light bulb" moments when participants got it. It was so exciting! Getting trademarks for my logo was also highly challenging and took more than three years. I still face challenges, but with each challenge, I continue to pray and seek guidance.
What are you most proud of that the program has accomplished?
Translating the Money & Me curriculum into Spanish allowed us to reach more people, which was very rewarding. The Teen Edition, beta-tested by the youth my DVULI cohort serves, is tailored to high school students and addresses age-specific topics like scholarships, financial aid, and grants. Helping youth avoid these pitfalls is very powerful.
I am always excited to see people take control of their money and lives, but I am most proud when a participant comes back and wants to become a trainer. In Peoria, Illinois, one of the participants took the program a couple of years ago and still talks about Money & Me to everyone she meets. She volunteers at a local food pantry and helps with youth programs in the summer. I asked if she would like to become a trainer, and she was so eager. She completed the online Train the Trainer training and taught several programs virtually during the pandemic lockdowns.
What kind of collaborative opportunities benefit this work?
I host an online monthly meet-up with Money & Me trainers from various organizations across the country. These wonderful people, who are dedicated to empowering others to gain control of their money and lives, come together to learn and grow. They share successes and training tips, laugh together, and offer problem-solving assistance to one another. Without Money & Me, they would likely have never crossed paths, but this program has fostered many relationships among like-minded people in organizations serving low-income folks. I am proud of the wide array of trainers, including a trainer in Colorado helping youth exit the foster care system and a trainer in Illinois volunteering at a food pantry, churches, and court systems.
What can your DVULI family be praying for as you move forward?
Please pray for the protection of my family and the Money & Me program. I hope to grow Money & Me to be in every state!