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Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 06 March 2014 04:00

M. Terry / SFVS

Pacoima And Hollywood Families Learn How To Put Away Money For Their Children’s Education


The high cost of a college education can seem like an insurmountable expense for families, especially if they’ve never really learned how to save money. But there are 700 families in Pacoima and Hollywood that have received a “financial education” to prepare them on how to make such a valuable nest egg for their children’s future.

They recently completed the “Families Save: College-Bound Savings Program” developed in English and Spanish by the Youth Policy Institute (YPI) and Citi Community Development, part of L.A. Promise Neighborhood, one of President Barack Obama’s White House initiatives.

The program is a three-year partnership between YPI and Citi to help a total of 1,300 lowincome families with children in middle and high school learn how to save for college, reduce debt, build credit and learn budgeting through financial education and one-on-one college preparation counseling. Some families even established their first savings account.

On Tuesday, March 4, several families among those the first 700 were presented certificates at Pacoima Charter elementary school for having completed the program’s initial goal of 3,900 house of financial educations. Those that haven’t yet completed the program are expected to do so by the end of this year.

Robert A. Annibale, global director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development and the event’s keynote speaker, noted the 700 families have collectively amassed $100,000 in savings. “The program…is about providing families with financial education and counseling: to think about planning and savings toward a goal,” Annibale said.

“And before themselves, people will think about their children. “It’s not that everyone will save what it takes to go a university. But it does mean they [better] understand the process of beginning to save. And for children, the idea of making choices, planning and budgeting…. it’s more than a bank account. That’s critical, of course, but it’s also about having goals.”

After first attending basic financial workshops, each family began their savings plan with a $25 deposit. They continued depositing a minimum of $5 a month for a year, or until that $25 start reached $85.

That amount was matched by the program. Citi Bank, or other banks involved in the program, will keep those accounts free of any fees or zero-balance requirements for the next two years as the families continue to make deposits.

No family members could touch those funds during the first year of saving, but could make withdrawals after that. Miriam Marin, a San Fernando resident who works as a parent coordinator at O’Melveny Elementary School, said going through the program has taught her and husband Victor, a supervisor for a manufacturing company, the importance of saving — and doing it early.

“My 20 year-old son Victor goes to CSUN, and we didn’t have the money when he started college so we had to get a bank loan,” said Marin, who also has an 11-year-old daughter. “I learned you can’t start saving when they’re in college or high school. You need to start saving when they’re babies.

“This program taught me how to get into the habit of saving. It’s affordable and can be done…I’m trying to save at least $50 a month for our daughter, so by the time she’s in high school she’ll have some money."

Marin said so far she has been able to put away $1,100 in two years. “It has been easier than I thought. You can spend $25 going to a movie or getting burgers. Instead of going to a movie or spending it on something just for the moment, you can save the $25 for (the college fund),” Marin said. Elana Ventura of San Fernando also received a certificate of completion.

A housewife, she said she and her husband Anselmo, a landscaper, who have four children, found saving “was easier than we thought” because they were doing it little by little rather than trying to put a large amount in the bank at one time. “So far we have $800 saved,” Ventura said. “And we’re adding more and more.”

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