The Smart Money Is On Financial Well-Being

The Caroline Center’s tuition-free program helps women of low-income backgrounds prepare for a career in the health field as well as a healthy financial lifestyle with the help of PNC Bank.

BALTIMORE – When Monica Conner was accepted into the Caroline Center’s certified nursing assistant program, she never thought money management would be in the lesson plan.

Besides lessons on patient care, Conner has also learned how to create a daily budget and still be able to save for a rainy day. After setting financial goals, she began to track daily spending habits to get a visual picture of how she was spending money to help budget monthly household expenses and income – and limit unnecessary spending.

The money management classes are taught by Veronica Elder, assistant manager of PNC Bank’s Hunt Valley branch in Baltimore.

“I love Ms. Veronica. She makes learning about finances interesting and gives us real-life examples to help us to understand,” said Conner, 24. “Now that I’ve learned the basics, I’m looking forward to moving my finances to the next level.”

Conner is among tens of thousands who participate in financial education classes hosted by PNC every year. These programs are at the core of PNC’s culture – and for good reason. Every April, National Financial Literacy Month is recognized in the United States to highlight the importance of financial well-being and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.

Seeking Answers to Everyday Questions

It began in 2000 when the National Endowment for Financial Education introduced Youth Financial Literacy Day. Four years later, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that officially recognized April as National Financial Literacy Month.

According to the National Financial Credit Counseling’s annual survey, three in four adults (75 percent) agree they could benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional. More than half also say they are saving the same amount as last year, but the number who have non-retirement savings has decreased slightly to 66 percent in 2015 from 69 percent in 2013.

Elder said PNC’s offerings range from the bilingual “Financial Education for Young People” program, which is developed for children up to age 5 and their caregivers, to products such as Virtual Wallet Student, a checking/savings product built around a money management calendar.

In addition, PNC offers a wide range of timely, proprietary and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation co-branded courses, including Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft, Foundations of Money Management and Raising Money Smart Kids. Community Development Banking employees train PNC colleagues to provide brief, interactive presentations for community organizations, and workplace bankers deliver programs as a courtesy to their clients’ employees. More than 32,000 people across the country participated in these programs in 2015.

In Baltimore, PNC has worked with numerous organizations to provide financial education training to staff and their clients. To date, more than 800 classes have been conducted in the Baltimore/Towson areas, including the program at the Caroline Center’s west side campus.

Veronica Elder talks to class
PNC Bank’s Veronica Elder talks about budgeting with students at the Caroline Center - St. Agnes campus

Providing Career and Personal Development

Established in 1996 and inspired by the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), the Caroline Center educates unemployed and underemployed women in Baltimore for careers as certified nursing assistants and pharmacy technicians.

Since its inception, the Caroline Center, accredited by the Maryland High Education Commission, has conducted 63 class sessions with nearly 2,500 women who graduated from the tuition-free program. In January 2016, the program expanded to St. Agnes Hospital’s De Paul Pavilion in West Baltimore.

The center partners with numerous health care facilities to provide women with internship placement and guaranteed employment after completion of the program. It also offers many resources to assist students with career and personal development, including financial education.

“We are excited about our new location on Baltimore’s west side and looking forward to helping women begin a career in the health care field if that’s their desire,” said Sister Patricia McLaughlin, SSND, Caroline Center’s executive director. “We are happy about PNC Bank’s commitment and collaboration with us to provide financial education training to help women to manage their finances.” 

McLaughlin said financial education is an important component of their curriculum because it teaches young women how to manage and save their money. Many of the women are providers for their families and if they are demonstrating good financial habits, so will their children.

As a 23-year PNC veteran, Elder looks for opportunities to help others take a proactive approach to planning their financial future, including teaching at the Caroline Center.

Elder teaches the “Money Matters” class, which covers techniques and tips to help people manage their finances, from FDIC’s Financial Education Curriculum entitled, “Money Smart.”

“I admire these young ladies and their eagerness to want a rewarding career to provide for their families,” said Elder, whose two daughters also graduated from the program.

If they take one technique we’ve learned in class and apply it to their daily lives, they are on their way to a successful financial future.

Tech-Savvy Spending and Saving

Technology is a big part of our daily lives and Elder uses her technological skills to demonstrate to students how to create a budget spreadsheet to manage and keep track of expenses and income. In addition to the PNC Pocket Tracker, she uses her smartphone to show students how to navigate online banking and PNC’s Virtual Wallet account with its “Danger Days” alerts to avoid overdrafts.

She encourages students to request their free credit reports. The same national survey found most U.S. adults (52 percent) have not reviewed their credit score or credit report within the past 12 months. When it comes to retirement savings, nearly three in 10 adults (29 percent) still do not save any portion of their household’s annual income for retirement.

Elder said some people struggle with budgeting because they have not identified their financial goals or a “needs vs. wants” plan. To her, a good outcome is when she can help someone clean up a past negative financial issue, open a checking account and then qualify for a car or home loan and save for their children’s education. “That’s success,” she said.

“Having a complete understanding of financial planning empowers the individual to maximize the value of their dollars with the highest level of growth,” Elder said. “It can also reduce the amount of interest paid on outstanding borrowing.”

Sister Patricia McLaughlin portrait
Sister Patricia McLaughlin, SSND,
Caroline Center executive director 
Monica Conner portrait
Monica Conner, Caroline Center trainee 

Be Money Smart

The benefits of creating a budget:

  • Gain control
  • Get organized
  • Get your family to work together
  • Reduce or avoid debt