Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation (GRACF) has a fund under its umbrella called Healthy Financial Futures (HFF), a new pilot project underway with funding received by the RBC Foundation – USA. Healthy Financial Futures was conceived by Bill Block, a 1985 graduate of Grand Rapids High School, who wants to help young people in their teens and twenties establish healthy lifetime financial habits. “Money is hard for most people,” said Block, “a fact I know all too well from watching my parents struggle financially when I was growing up. In my early twenties I committed to learning a better way. I’m now in my fifties and I founded HFF to share with young people the skills and habits leading to a prosperous future.”
Healthy Financial Futures addresses an urgent need in the wider Greater Itasca area. A recent study by The United Way of 1000 Lakes identified “financial education, including budgeting and money management skills training, financial counseling and support services” as one of the greatest needs for individuals and families in the region. And a recent Community Needs Assessment by KOOTASCA Community Action found that eight of the top ten most prevalent challenges facing clients were financial in nature. And unfortunately, our area is not unique–nationally, the American Psychological Association has reported that financial stress is the #1 stressor in the country.
“It is important to me that people understand what HFF is not about, as much as what it is,” Block emphasized. “HFF is not intended to replace the many excellent financial literacy courses available locally, such as at the high school and through Community Ed. Such programs are great, but in my opinion, they will only change the long-term financial behavior of a select few motivated individuals who seek those courses out.” Instead, according to Block, Healthy Financial Futures was founded to help everyone else—especially young people in their teens and twenties whose financial trajectories are not yet “set.” Block will teach each participant the “how” part of achieving a bright financial future and then walk that path alongside each participant until good financial habits are formed. Training will be customized to the unique circumstances of each individual, and ongoing support and encouragement will be provided as needed. According to Block, “As I acknowledged earlier, money is hard, and I established Healthy Financial Futures to do the hardest thing possible—change people’s relationship with money. If you are a young person with any money concerns at all, I’d be glad to help you learn the small and regular financial steps that will payoff big time down the road.”
The early results of the Healthy Financial Futures pilot program are encouraging. Following an initial call for nominations emailed to teachers and staff of ISD 318, Block has already engaged one-on-one with a group of young people ranging from age 16 to their mid twenties. Every single nominee—and some of their parents–have responded enthusiastically to their first HFF interaction. But Block is the first to acknowledge that the true value of this new program will only become clear down the road. “My goal is to help young people develop good lifetime financial habits. So, check in with me in a few months and we’ll see how many of these early pilot participants are still engaged, learning how to incorporate healthy money practices into their everyday lives.”
Healthy Financial Futures is currently in a pilot phase with limited funding, and GRACF is serving as the fiscal sponsor. Block hopes to build on his early success with future and larger grant proposals and fundraising. He would also welcome opportunities to spread the word about HFF to young people in the community. For more information about Healthy Financial Futures or to nominate someone you think would benefit, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in helping the Healthy Financial Futures program reach more people, you can donate to Healthy Financial Futures at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation online at www.gracf.org, click on Donate Now and search for the Healthy Financial Futures Fund. You can also send or drop off donations at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation at 350 NW 1st Avenue, Suite E, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. If you have any questions, please contact the Community Foundation 218-999-9100.