ConnectOC Blog

Financial Literacy is Key to Self-Sufficiency

Posted by: Shelley Hoss on 4/7/2014

By Shelley Hoss

The ConnectOC Blog is a place for sharing insight, information and examples of how Orange County residents, donors and nonprofits are working to build a brighter, stronger, more vibrant community.  We welcome you to share your thoughts by commenting below

How two nonprofits are helping families master the dollars and cents of self-sufficiency.

What’s your financial IQ? 

We live in a society that relentlessly tempts us to make questionable financial choices. From the 1,600 to 3,000 ads we see in a typical day urging us to consume, to the 3.9 billion credit card offers that Credit Suisse estimated Americans received last year, we are inundated with messages to spend, spend, spend. 

A lack of basic financial knowledge — how to budget, the importance of maintaining an emergency savings fund, or what makes up a credit score — hurts the very people who need it most. We see the effects across Orange County in the lack of self-sufficiency of families who struggle without a safety net, have limited access to educational opportunities, and forgo health and wellness services due to financial concerns. 

“Financial literacy is the ability to understand how best to manage and invest money,” explained Yesenia V. Ochoa, director of financial stability and community engagement at Delhi Center. The neighborhood-based multi-service nonprofit, located in the historic Delhi neighborhood of Santa Ana, serves more than 42,000 residents annually. The center’s mission is to advance self-sufficiency through programs in health, financial stability, education and community engagement. 

“This skill set is important for every income segment, but particularly critical for low- to moderate-income populations,” Ochoa said. “Those with very limited knowledge are especially vulnerable to changes in the workplace or home, health emergencies and cost-of-living shifts.”

When the skills of financial literacy are gained, however, families can begin the long road toward self-sufficiency, as Miriam has done. 

Miriam is a single mom and a survivor of domestic violence. She enrolled in the Delhi Center’s SparkPoint OC program to learn how to improve her financial situation. Concerned about supporting her son, Miriam made it a goal to become financially stable. Since enrolling in SparkPoint OC, she has learned to budget, improved her credit score, increased her monthly income and moved into her own studio apartment. SparkPoint OC gave Miriam and her son the tools and resources they needed to create long-lasting financial change. 

But what if Orange County youth grew up with the skills they needed to be financially self-sufficient from the beginning? That’s the challenge that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley is undertaking. 

“It is important to teach youth at a young age to be fiscally responsible,” Area Director Nicole Watson said. “We see families struggle daily because of their financial situations. These families are moving constantly. They do not have enough food to eat or clothes for their children. Because the parents do not have money-management skills, their children will fare no better if they don’t learn them somewhere. This is where we come into play.”

The club offers members ages 13 to 18 the Charles Schwab Money Matters program, which promotes financial responsibility and independence by building their basic money-management skills. Participants learn how to manage a checking account, budget, save and invest. They also learn about starting small businesses and paying for college. 

“Money Matters teaches teens the importance of budgeting. One of the biggest topics is wants versus needs,” Watson said. “Youth need to understand the core concept of a want versus a need before they are able to make smart money choices.”

And that’s a lesson we all can learn. 

To get involved with Delhi Center, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley or one of the many local nonprofits promoting financial literacy, visit Nonprofit Central at


Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at

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