Introducing Our Participant of the Month, Kimberly Turner-Livsey!

Fund My Future highlights the February 2018 participant of the month, Kimberly Turner-Livsey and son Laron Livsey.

Starting the Conversation

When discussing the option of college with children the big question on every family’s mind is: how much is college going to cost?

The answer to that question varies from nothing at all, to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many factors go into determining the cost of post-secondary education. You have to consider your child’s academic performance, the area of study he or she wishes to pursue, costs of books and lab fees, and, among other things, where your child will live. Talking about family finances early on is a great way to position your child financially for college.

Kimberly Turner-Livsey is not one to procrastinate on saving for her youngest son, 10-year-old Laron, to attend college. Even though Laron is only a 4th-grade student at Manchester Academic Charter School and has some time before he attends college, Kimberly wants to start contributing toward future savings, educational planning, and postsecondary education.

Kimberly opened a savings account with Fund My Future in November 2017. She first heard of the savings program when the Fund My Future team visited her workplace – The Young Women’s Christian Association of Greater Pittsburgh (YWCA).

“Toni and another representative wanted to meet with the YWCA to talk about the ways we could help spread the word and get some of our participants involved in Fund My Future,” After hearing details about the program, Kimberly was on board—for both the YWCA and herself. “I want to make sure my youngest [child] is still able to experience college, whether he decides to stay local or if he decides to go away to school,” she added. The cost of college can include a range of items including some you might not expect.

“I was not as prepared for some of the other out-of-pocket expenses with my oldest child and I do not want to be in that position again [with my youngest child]. I want to make sure that he is able to experience college stress-free.” -Kimberly Turner-Livsey

Getting Started

Once Kimberly made the decision to start a college savings plan for her son, Laron, she decided to open with First Commonwealth Bank.

“I chose First Commonwealth because when Fund My Future visited my place of employment they were one of the first banks the organization had established a relationship with,” she said.

Convenience also played a role in the choosing of her banking institution. “I figured there’s a few locations in the Downtown area where I work, as well as one location in Robinson, PA.” When asked what obstacles stood in the way of setting up her account, Kimberly said, “The only obstacle I experienced was trying to link my bank account to the Fund My Future account.”

The help she received from Program Manager Toni Corinealdi made her feel at ease. “I left Toni a message and within two hours, I got a follow-up call. She walked me through the process and we were able to get everything situated.” Kimberly recalls how helpful the Fund My Future team has been throughout the enrollment process.

“The Fund My Future team has been very helpful and supportive in walking you through the process and making sure it’s a good experience for the families involved.”

A Desire to Save

Many participants in the Fund My Future program indicate that they want to save for their child’s future but sometimes find it impossible to save due to certain financial situations. Kimberly said there is no set dollar amount she places in her son’s account: “I think people get intimated by the amount [they think they have to save]. Realize that you can save just as much or little as you want – without any restrictions. You do not have to have a minimal balance, at least not with First Commonwealth Bank,” she says. “When people think of saving, they believe they have to save a large amount of money at one time, but really, you can take five dollars to the bank. You do not have to have $25, $50 or $100 every time you go. In fact, I opened my account in November. At that time, I had only made two deposits when we won. At that point, my son only had $20 or $25 in the account. It was not a large amount of money. I actually had less in the account at that point, than what we won.”

Strategies for Saving

Kimberly explained how adults could help children establish good saving habits at an early age: “Almost treat saving like a reward system. If a child gets money for a special occasion, help them to save some of that money…teach them that they do not have to run out and spend it all. Try to save at least half.”

Whatever the future holds, creating a savings plan will be the cornerstone of providing a solid financial foundation to help with financing education among other things.

 

Grandparents Getting in on the Saving Action!

Lisa Dukes recently opened college savings accounts for both of her grandchildren after seeing a social media post about a program called Fund My Future. Though parents typically bear the cost of college for their children, Ms. Dukes believes grandparents can play an important role as well.

“I think it’s important for grandparents to create a foundation. I always model behaviors for my kids that I hope they then model for their own children. I hope to motivate the parents to want more for their children.” -Ms. Dukes

Savings Lessons You Can Take to the Bank

Since students learn very little about finance in school, Ms. Dukes believes savings accounts are a great tool to teach children about savings. Now that she has opened bank accounts for her grandchildren, she brings them on trips to the bank to make deposits.

She states, “I took my granddaughter to the bank and she was so excited. My granddaughter- she calls me Yaya- she said, ‘Yaya, the money in the account is for me?’” Her granddaughter’s knowledge that she has her own account will inspire her to pursue her dreams and empower her to take care of her own finances when she gets older.

Along with saving for her grandchildren, Ms. Dukes emphasizes the importance of saving with her own children. Her son is currently a high school senior who has saved every paycheck since his first summer job at the age of 14. Anytime he was tempted to buy something new, his mother would ask him, “Is this something you want, or something you need?”

Often times he would realize he did not really need the item, so he saved the money instead. He is now prepared to use the money for college. He has received acceptance at several colleges, including Robert Morris, Slippery Rock, and Youngstown University, and he plans to major in graphic design.  

Saving Habits You Won’t Want to Break

Both her son and her grandchildren believe they can accomplish their dreams because Ms. Dukes always tells them they can be whatever they want to be. She tells them never to use the phrase, “I can’t,” because they can do anything they want if they set goals and work to achieve those goals.

Ms. Dukes thinks this is important because when she was a child, there were always things that she was told she could not do. She had to motivate herself and develop her own saving habits.

Ms. Dukes has known the value of saving since she was young child. She always believed in saving her money, and she has always acknowledged the importance of budgeting. 

“I am a budgeter, and I really stick to my budget. I don’t live beyond my means. Everything I want to do, I plan for it.”

To keep track of her budget, Ms. Dukes utilizes a free website called “Intuit.” This savings tool allows her to manage her money and ensure that she has funds set aside for her children and grandchildren.

Along with Intuit, Ms. Dukes always looks for other tools to make saving as easy as possible. When she saw a Facebook post about a child savings program called Fund My Future, she was thrilled. “I just thought it was awesome and the process was a breeze. Learning about finance can be very empowering for children, and now my grandchildren will be prepared for their future,” Ms. Dukes said.

Just like her son, Ms. Dukes hopes that modeling the importance of saving through Fund My Future will teach her grandchildren to save their money for higher education.

 

Solving Debt & Saving for the Future

As a young, single mother with five young children, Leslie Brown rarely has time or money to think about saving for her children’s future. Ms. Brown did not learn anything about saving as a child, and she had never seriously considered opening saving accounts for her children. However, while attending an event at Manchester Academic Charter School, Ms. Brown heard about a new program that awakened her to the possible benefits of saving.

At the Black History celebration on February 28th, Ms. Brown sat comfortably in the auditorium chair and enjoyed the exciting dance performances. Halfway through the show, she watched as a group of women wearing grey T-shirts approached the stage carrying a giant check. One of the women took the microphone and introduced herself as Toni Corinealdi, the manager of a countywide program called Fund My Future. The program allows parents to earn raffle tickets as they deposit into a child’s long–term saving account. A parent at the school was one of 30 people to win $50 for the first quarter’s drawing.

“I was speechless when they brought out that prize and talked about all the incentives I can get by saving. I didn’t usually think about saving, but I realized I’m not too young to start saving for my children.” – Ms. Brown

She spoke with the Fund My Future staff after the event and provided her contact information. Within the following week, she received a phone call and email from someone with the program, and she arranged for the program staff to meet her at the bank.

Overcoming Prior Financial Problems

Ms. Brown arrived at the bank and went through all of the steps to open the account. However, the final step for submission brought an unexpected obstacle. The bank denied her application due to outstanding debt with another financial institution. Ms. Brown was shocked. “I was upset. I couldn’t believe my children would be punished for a mistake I made years ago,” she said.

Ms. Brown was fully prepared to contact the debt-collecting agency and begin a payment plan, but she wanted to start saving for her children as soon as possible. She spoke with Toni about other options, and Toni suggested the Hill District Federal Credit Union.

Even though Ms. Brown does not live, work, or worship in the Hill District, the Credit Union is making exceptions for Fund My Future participants. The Hill District is a dedicated partner of Fund My Future, and they happily assisted Ms. Brown in opening new accounts for her children.

Her Savings Strategy

Now that she has five new accounts, Ms. Brown is determined to deposit money into each account every single month. She has been saving money by cooking meals at home rather than eating out. She also gives her children an allowance, and tells them to save at least $2 each month. “Even though they might not like it now, I told them they will appreciate it when they turn 18,” Ms. Brown stated.

The children will definitely make good use of this money, as all of them have big dreams for the future. “My children want to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, and the youngest- she wants to be the tooth fairy,” Ms. Brown said with a laugh. Though becoming a tooth fairy may never materialize, having money in long-term savings accounts will open countless doors for the future.  

Introducing our First Child Savings Participant of the Month, Thomas Casillas!

Fund My Future highlights one of the second quarter raffle winners as he shares his tips to save.

Originally from Georgia, Thomas Casillas recently moved to Pittsburgh last June. Both of his daughters, Isabelle and Aria, had Georgia 529 savings plans that he needed to transition to Pennsylvania.

A 529 plan, sometimes referred to as a Qualified Tuition plan, is a savings account operated by a state or state agency and is designed to be used for a child’s educational expenses. Savings can be used for tuition, books, and other education related expenses at an accredited two or four year college or university, in addition to use for private or religious primary and secondary schooling for children before college.

Getting a Jump Start on Savings with Fund My Future

Through his research Mr. Casillas stumbled upon the Fund My Future website and knew it would be a great addition to his current savings plan.

“Saving to me has never been something I did, my wife was the saver, but she taught me. Prior to her, I was bad in debt and saving was a fantasy.” – Mr. Casillas 

Through these savings accounts, he and his wife are teaching their two daughters to value savings so that they never have to live paycheck to paycheck.

Turning Spare Change into College Savings

Finding a good way to save can be tough, but Mr. Casillas and his family have crafted a ritual, as he calls it, over the years to save. In his home they have a separate piggy bank that they fill with loose coins throughout the year. At the end of the year, they go to the bank and have the girls drop the coins into a coin counter. Once the total is determined, he splits it equally and deposits it directly into their 529 plans. A few loose coins a day doesn’t seem like much at the time, but as his girls are able to see, can quickly add up to a significant amount of money! Isabelle and Aria look at their account balances monthly to learn about how interest builds up over time, and to remind them that their future is already being supported.

When asked what his children would like to be when they grow up, Mr. Casillas responded, “Good question!” Isabelle, a student at Quaker Valley Middle School, is musically inclined. She loves to play the piano and cello, so she hopes to pursue something in the arts field. Her younger sister Aria, a student at Osborne Elementary School, loves animals- especially dolphins. “At the moment,” her father says, “she wants to be an ‘animal doctor’.”

With such supportive parents and a jumpstart on savings, we are certain Isabelle and Aria have a bright future ahead of them.

 

Proving that Savings Can Start With Just $5

Ms. Wilkes’ daughter recently got her first job working at Wendy’s. Though she is not making a lot of money, Ms. Wilkes constantly reminds her daughter to dedicate a small portion of her pay to savings.

“Even if it is just $5, she will be happy to have that money when times get tough,” said Ms. Wilkes.

By instilling the value of savings, Ms. Wilkes hopes her daughter can one day achieve her dream of becoming a successful business owner.

The First Step Towards Child Savings

While attending an event at Urban Academy Charter School, Ms. Wilkes saw a bright green tablecloth advertising a new program called Fund My Future. She thought about her 16-year-old daughter going off to college in just a few short years, and she knew this was the perfect opportunity to help her daughter save for school. She scheduled to meet with Ms. Toni Corinealdi, the program manager, within the following week.

Ms. Wilkes completed the first step of the program by simply enrolling on the website, and then she was ready to open a bank account for her daughter. Since the program allows her to choose from a variety of local banks, she decided to use First Commonwealth Bank near her home in East Liberty.

Ms. Wilkes had been having trouble with her car, so she asked a friend for a ride to the bank. She provided all of the necessary paperwork to open the account, and she left the bank feeling excited about this opportunity to save for her child.

Shortly after, Ms. Wilkes met Toni at the local library to link her daughter’s account to the Fund My Future Portal. She eagerly sat down at the computer to access her account online. However, even after typing in her information several times, she could not sign on. They did everything they could to troubleshoot, but realized they could not solve the problem on their own.

Overcoming the Hurdles

Determined to overcome this barrier, Ms. Wilkes found another ride to the bank. When she arrived, a teller informed her that she needed an online ID in addition to her regular account number. The teller helped her access this information, and Ms. Wilkes was once again looking forward to making deposits.

Yet, just a few weeks later Ms. Wilkes ran into more trouble.

“They had closed the account and sent the check back in the mail because they said they needed my daughter’s signature on the paperwork,” said Ms. Wilkes.

Ms. Wilkes did not understand why her teenage daughter would need to sign the paperwork, so she called Toni for assistance. Toni graciously offered to coordinate a three-way call with First Commonwealth Bank. This discussion revealed that the teller who had requested the child’s signature and closed the account had been in error, and First Commonwealth was dedicated to correcting this mistake. With the help of this bank employee, Ms. Wilkes was directed back to the bank to open a new account.

Where Are They Now?

After three trips to the bank, Ms. Wilkes finally had a long-term savings account for her daughter’s future. She also has a Fund My Future account that gives her chances to win cash prizes every time she makes a deposit into her daughter’s account. She persevered through every obstacle because she believes in the importance of her daughter’s education, and she was willing to do anything to start saving.

While she may wish the process had been easier, she accepted the challenge and was never discouraged. “This was my experience and I made it work,” Ms. Wilkes explained.

She attributed much of her ability to overcome the barriers to the Fund My Future staff.

“Toni is dedicated and she will be there for you through any problems you might have,” said Ms. Wilkes. Toni is always excited to help parents like Ms. Wilkes who are passionate about saving for their child’s future.

“I believe that everyone can save, and by me believing in you, eventually you will believe in yourself. When we actually finalize the linking process, I can hear and sometimes feel the excitement in that person’s voice. It’s a beautiful feeling! I truly love helping folks accomplish goals in their life!” -Toni Corinealdi, Program Director

Ms. Wilkes’ daughter will soon graduate from high school. She has already begun her search for colleges, and she plans to pursue a degree in business so that she can operate a store related to one of her passions, fashion or cosmetology. Thanks to her mother’s emphasis on savings and the money she will accumulates in her Fund My Future account, Ms. Wilkes’ daughter will be prepared to take on whatever life might bring.