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How To Become Financially Literate

The first step to achieving financial independence is to become financially literate. Becoming financially literate means understanding how the world of finance operates. What rules and laws govern that world? When you learn how the finance world works, then you can make better decisions about what rules to follow and what rules to break. Developing financial literacy takes time, since you will always have more to learn, but getting started is quite simple. Here are 7 ways to achieve financial literacy that you can start doing today.

1. Pick up the paper

Start reading everything you can about finance. Yes, you can buy books on the subject (or better yet, check them out at the library or download them) but you can also learn a lot just by reading the finance section of your local paper. If physical newspapers are not your thing, you can also read the financial section of the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Fortune, Forbes and Money.

2. Read Rich Dad, Poor Dad

While much of the financial advice in this book flies in the face of traditional investment wisdom, there are reasons it remains one of the bestselling financial books of all time. Just remember, don’t believe everything you read, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up some great advice.

3. Avoid “get rich quick” schemes 

One of the fastest ways to lose all your money is to invest in pyramid schemes. The world – and the internet – is full of people promising you fast wealth and instant results. There is no quick and easy path to wealth. There are longer ways and shorter ways, but they all take discipline, determination and patience. Don’t believe anyone that tells you differently, and definitely don’t give them your money.

4. Use financial management tools 

Before you can build wealth, you must understand your own habits and patterns and what you are currently doing with the money you have. Personal financial management tools like Mint from Quickbooks is free to use and can give you a tremendous amount of insight into your personal financial habits. Building wealth often involves breaking bad spending habits, but in order to break them you have to understand what they are.

5. Take a class or attend a seminar

Not only will taking a class or attending a seminar help to build financial literacy, but it will also put you in contact with other like-minded individuals. You aren’t going to be able to learn all by yourself or even build wealth by yourself. It will take a network of people to help you. Some people in your support group will be experienced, some will not, but they will all possess knowledge and information you do not. They can help talk you down from the ledge when things get turbulent and can also be a good sounding board for any crazy ideas you may have.

6. Find a mentor

Chances are you know someone either in the financial world or who is a successful investor. They don’t necessarily have to be a millionaire to be successful, just financially stable. If you know anyone who is not constantly worried about money, then chances are good they are a financially literate.

7. Dive in

One of the best ways to learn about investing is to invest. You will always be more interested in something you have a stake in than something you don’t. You can retain the services of a professional firm to help you get started, or you can do it alone using a self-service apps but the best way to learn is to just do it. You don’t have to invest your life’s savings or bet the farm just yet (in fact, you shouldn’t) but you should at least dip your toe in the water to get started.

 

Brittany Waddell is a contributing writer and media specialist for NexGen Wealth. She often produces content for a variety of finance blogs.

Ten Years With America SCORES Cleveland – Donte’s Story of Continued Growth and Success

2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years.  We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring the accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months. 

Our first guest post comes from America SCORES Cleveland, written by Boo Geisse, Program Manager.

America SCORES Cleveland - Core Group Photo - Poetry Slam 2015

America SCORES Cleveland, Core Group at Poetry SLAM! 2015

Ten years ago, Donte Washington was a second grader at Empire Computech Elementary School in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. An exceptional student from a religious, two-parent home, Donte struggled not with academics or poor behavior but with low self-confidence and extreme shyness.

“I was introverted, quiet, not willing to do anything,” he says. “I was a kid who didn’t participate in anything.”

Enter America SCORES Cleveland. A literacy and health youth development organization, America SCORES Cleveland impacts Cleveland youth by providing soccer and writing instruction after school.

When Donte first encountered SCORES in 2006, the organization was only two years old and had just expanded into the east side of Cleveland. Luckily for Donte, his school was one of them.

“I didn’t think I was going to like it,” he admits. “I had no idea what soccer was. I had never written a poem in my life.”

Donte’s comments are typical, repeated hundreds if not thousands of times in the ears of SCORES staff members. Soccer in the inner city? Poetry for youth who struggle to read and write? The odds seemed stacked against it.

Yet in the twelve years SCORES has run its unique programming in Cleveland city schools, the results continue to impress, and impress upon we who work for SCORES, the significance of the organization.

Ten years ago, America SCORES Cleveland was a small grassroots organization struggling to survive. Today, SCORES spans nine Cleveland schools in five neighborhoods and is geared for greater growth.

“When I came on, we were a three-person staff in seven schools, with only one program per school,” says Executive Director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.

SCORES was on uncertain ground when Debi started. In her first two months at the organization, she hired Matthew Williams, Program Director. A year later she brought Paul Khacherian on board as Associate Director. All three remain at SCORES today, and, with an additional two full-time staff members and a core group of dedicated interns, the program has grown to serve over 600 youths each year.

Here’s the breakdown: In 2008, SCORES expanded its 3rd-5th grade programming to include 6th-8th graders, growing the program alongside its dedicated poet-athletes. 2012 saw the birth of the Alumni Program for high school students who aged out of typical programming. Today, alums referee SCORES soccer games, act as assistant coaches to existing SCORES teams, volunteer at SCORES events and participate in college and career readiness programs hosted at the SCORES office. In 2014, the organization grew yet again—this time to create a “Jr. SCORES” program for 1st and 2nd graders.

“We have quadrupled in size,” says Debi. And greater reach means greater impact.

“SCORES programming now serves a CMSD student for an eleven year continuum,” says Matthew. “SCORES has been able to breathe life into our schools and our neighborhoods by providing positive team activities.”

Donte America Scores Cleveland

Donte sharing his America SCORES experience at Poetry SLAM! in November, 2015

Nobody demonstrates this impact as fully as Donte. After that first season, he spent every year, every season in SCORES that he could. As a middle schooler, he was elected team captain by his soccer coach; he led warm-ups, ran drills and soccer practices and helped his team remain undefeated during his eighth grade year. In ninth grade, Donte emailed SCORES about staying involved—an inquiry that played a large part in the creation of the Alumni Program.

“[The SCORES staff] had had conversations about starting one,” Donte says. “And I just so happened to email them about staying in the program, and that’s what started it.”

Today, Donte remains one of SCORES’ most active alums. In addition to the work he does for SCORES, Donte is a high school senior, an employee at Marc’s and was recently accepted into Cleveland State University, where he will begin his college career this fall. Additionally, last November, when volunteering at SCORES’ signature annual event, the Poetry SLAM!, Donte was approached by a SCORES board member and offered a summer internship at a Cleveland company.

Of course, none of this surprises those who know him; Donte is recognized as a successful young man and a leader by all. From former coaches to SCORES staff, and poet-athletes to complete strangers, his presence leaves an indelible impression.

“Donte’s kindness, generosity and dedication are what have impressed me the most,” says Matthew, who has, alongside Debi and Paul, watched Donte grow up.

These types of comments still take the eighteen year old by surprise—but while he remains soft spoken and humble, Donte’s shyness is fading in the light of something new: a realization of who he truly is, and who he is to become.

“I have grown to be a leader,” he says. He contributes much of his transformation to his time with America SCORES Cleveland. “Without SCORES, I honestly don’t think I would be in the position I am today. SCORES kept me out of trouble. It taught me right from wrong. It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve had.”

As we at America SCORES Cleveland look back on the past ten years—of Donte’s life and our own—we can’t help but feel excited for the future. Donte plans to become a graphic designer; he’d like to design footwear and continue to volunteer and make positive change in his community.

And us? In addition to our regular programming, SCORES currently hosts four fundraising events each year, is on the national curriculum development team for all America SCORES’ affiliates, is a member of the Slavic Village P-16 Initiative, a Cuyahoga Arts & Culture “Cultural Partner,” a GCNCA P4SS and MyCom partner agency and, last year, received its first financial support from United Way of Great Cleveland.

Despite all of this, SCORES has no plans on slowing down.

Feliciana - United Way Annual Meeting 3

Feliciana Hambrick-Thomas performing her poem, ‘Confusion,’ at United Way Annual Meeting March 4th, 2016

Ask Debi what her plans are for the future, and this is the answer you’ll receive: “In ten years we’ll have a staff of ten to twenty. We’ll be in twenty schools, and they’ll all host 1st through 8th grade programming. We’ll have a direct referral program for our alums and scholarships for our students for college.”

Some may think these goals lofty, but this mentality has not only kept America SCORES Cleveland alive all these years, it has made it thrive.

“I am inspired and humbled by the extraordinary youth I have the privilege to work with each day,” Debi says. “I continue to do this work because I believe these youth need a positive outlet for their creativity, and programs like America SCORES keep kids on the right path to achieve their full potential.”

We’ll drink (coffee) to that.

To learn more about America SCORES Cleveland head over to their website, www.americaSCOREScleveland.org

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter as well!