Wellness Tips

Woodland’s Miriam Dougherty teaches financial wellness – Daily Democrat

Woodland resident Miriam Dougherty teaches financial wellness through her role as a SAFE Credit Union financial educator. (Courtesy)
Woodland resident Miriam Dougherty teaches financial wellness. (Courtesy)

Ever since moving to Woodland seven years ago, Miriam Dougherty has been working on teaching people how to save money and other money management skills through webinars, school programs and more.

Dougherty is a financial wellness educator for SAFE Credit Union and has been working with small nonprofit organizations, high school students and individuals within the greater Sacramento region.

“As an advocate for financial wellness, literacy and empowerment, Miriam Dougherty has no equal,” Hector Madueno, financial wellness manager for the credit union, emphasized. “Her authentic desire to enrich the lives of those within her community is evident through her work in designing financial literacy material from scratch and then passionately delivering the content through whatever medium is at her disposal.”

One of Dougherty’s main methods of reaching people is through the credit union’s weekly webinars, which cover various topics from basic money management principles to first-time home buying.

She encourages anyone interested in receiving tips on money management principles to tune in and ask questions anonymously.

“You don’t have to be a member to join, you don’t even have to live in California,” she said. “Everyone is welcome. The purpose of the webinars is firstly to make sure that you are equipped with the right resources and tools so that you can be your best advocate when we are not there to help you.”

She argued that people should try to equip themselves with money management knowledge so that they can be prepared for unexpected hardships, such as the high inflation period the country is going through.

“Right now with inflation, it is scary and I think what we learned during the pandemic is that our jobs and our resources to get income are not guaranteed,” she highlighted. “That’s why savings and creating one is so important so that we do not fall on harder times we could potentially fall on if we do not have somewhat of a cushion to be able to rely on.”

Financial Literacy

Dougherty explained that financial literacy is the “understanding and comprehension of basic financial tools and resources.”

“It’s important because as adults, finance on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s just making small or larger purchases or paying bills regularly, we need to be financially literate to alleviate the abundance of stress that already comes with finances in general and managing our own money,” she argued.

She noted that many of the struggles people have with money begin at the home and at school, which are both underutilized “areas of opportunity” to teach youth about finances.

“Even growing up and seeing my parents saving money by putting it in a jar, we really didn’t talk about money very often,” she recounted. “It wasn’t until I got older and got my first job that my parents started talking to me about what it means to earn money and save it.”

Additionally, she argued that adults don’t like to talk about money because it can be a source of embarrassment.

“We really need to be open and accepting with those that might need help and make them feel welcome to ask the questions that they need so that they can eliminate some of the stress they might have on their shoulders,” she added. “If you don’t have those elements, both in the home and in the school systems, it really does create some sort of a disadvantage for students to really be financially successful in the future.”

That’s why Dougherty’s outreach work primarily focuses on reaching high school students and teaching them about money before they head out into the real world.

High school education programs

Dougherty believes it’s important to begin teaching financial literacy at a young age.

“As soon as you turn 18 and get out of high school, you are surrounded by people at tabling events just saying, ‘hey, you want to apply for this credit card? You’ll get a pretty backpack or a water bottle,’” she stressed. “All of those incentives sound great… but unless we know how to navigate the world of credit, it can really become a dangerous spiral that a young adult will get themselves into without knowing the right way to get out of it.”

That’s why her credit union partners with several school districts and provides them with programs that place students into situations they likely have never found themselves in.

“For instance, we have what we call our branch program at three high schools,” Dougherty said.

This program teaches students about product knowledge, business etiquette and the importance of being a good advocate for members.

Additionally, a new program the credit union is rolling out next month called budget sense will teach students about the basic principles of money, such as budgeting, the importance of credit scores and different savings vehicles.

“Then they get thrown out into an exercise where they’re given a brand new identity with an occupation, a family, a credit score and a monthly salary,” Dougherty explained. “They are challenged to go out to seven different ‘merchants’ to buy the basic necessities that that we as adults manage on a day-to-day basis.”

Students are supposed to stay within budget and apply any money they have left over to their imaginary savings.

However, Dougherty explained that the credit union has not had the privilege of working with the Yolo County Office of Education or the Woodland Joint Unified School District.

“It’s definitely a goal of mine to be able to bring this into the school district and introduce it to their students,” she assured. “It is my hope as I develop my position further that we are able to engage more with the nonprofits and other organizations within Yolo County, including the school districts, to be able to showcase our curriculum.”

“Being that I live in Yolo County and my former job was a community engagement officer serving the Yolo County region, I fully understand the necessity to serve its citizens.”

For more information, visit safecu.org/community/financial-education.

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