Prosperity Club is a family-friendly financial education program. Education is provided to adults facing financial challenges, but the club does its best to accommodate their children as well. Kids of all ages accompany their parents or guardians to meetings at the Children’s Museum in Great Falls, where child care and dinner are provided.

Younger children enjoy being able to play in a separate section of the museum while adults are learning. According to Karen Gardner—who runs the Prosperity Club with Lynda Sowell—children are even sometimes the reason adults attend, pressuring them to come so they can explore the museum for free.

However, Gardner has noticed that the venue holds less interest for older children.

“I have heard from a few of the older kids that they are bored,” says Gardner, FESP Navigator with RDI. In her work at RDI, she has also generally observed a worrying lack of basic financial knowledge among teens and pre-teens. “A lot of these kids don’t even know what a deposit ticket looks like. And they have never had the experience of being in a bank. They walk in and don’t know where to go to deposit money. So they can’t even manage an account.”

As a result, Gardner and Sowell have come up with an idea to engage pre-teens and teens with a financial education program. Gardner says that the proposed program would be a “structured financial education course,” which would include games and activities such as the electronic Game of Life and presentations from local credit union representatives. After attending a determined number of sessions, participants would be able to open a $25 savings account with a local credit union.

The program, which does not currently have funding, would “give [them] an outlet and focus,” and a basis “to start thinking about the importance of saving and planning for your future.”

Daytime club meetings are held monthly in Helena and Great Falls. The club is only able to provide child care for evening meetings in Great Falls—also monthly—which are held at the Children’s Museum.

Bringing kids to meetings is not just about the cost and hassle of getting a baby-sitter. “It’s more about welcoming the family. It’s designed to serve [FESP’s] family-friendly purpose. It’s less of a barrier” when parents don’t have to hurry around town picking up and dropping off kids in order to attend meetings.

Connected to Prosperity Club’s family-friendly design is an overarching aim to make the experience of learning to manage personal finances—an experience which often feels isolating for those struggling with financial difficulty—supportive and communal. The dinner provided to attendees is shared as a group, and is intended to build a sense of community in the same way that many cultures “break bread” to symbolize a larger shared humanity.

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