This website, a collaboration of the Community Action Partnership and the National Endowment for Financial Education, was created to provide you with quick access to financial information that your program participants may need.

Here you’ll find financial topics presented in easy-to-understand ways to help participants set and reach their goals, manage their money, find a new or better job, open an Individual Development Account and find housing that meets their needs.


This Website Guide provides:

Site Organization: a look at the site’s structure and its features; this information will help you easily navigate the site and quickly find the information you need

Site Use Tips: suggestions for using the site, whether for one program participant or in a classroom situation

Site Content: a short index of the main topic categories found in the site, plus direct links to those pages


Site Organization

From the home page of this Website, on the left side of the page, you will see links to the five main sections of the site:

Turning Your Dreams Into Goals

Managing Your Money

Employment ABCs

Individual Development Accounts

Your Housing Options

You’ll also see links to:

  • Worksheets/Tips: the master list of all worksheets and tip sheets found in the site, organized by major section
  • Resources: the master list of all resources, reference materials, and related Websites found in the site, organized by major section

Also on the home page, you will see logos for CAP and NEFE at the top of the page, and a "For More Information" link at the bottom of the page. Clicking on any of these takes you to a page that has descriptions of each organization, links to their Websites, a standard disclaimer and copyright information.

When you click on one of the main section titles on the left-hand side of the page, you will go to the first page of that topic section. There, you will read an overview of what the section contains and see links to the subsections of each topic area in a list marked with yellow bullets and red text.

By clicking on any of these subsection links, you will go directly to that information in the site. You will also see links to Worksheets/Tips, which open each worksheet or tip sheet in a new window that you can print, as well as a Resources link, which takes you to a page with suggested resources for that topic area. In addition, each section features a success story—real-life examples of people who have benefited from the CAA in their area.

At the bottom of each page in a section, you will see small gray letters spelling out the title of the section of the site you’re in, followed by the subsection title as appropriate. These markers tell you where you are in the site. Underneath the marker, there’s a long blue bar with yellow links inside it. These are the links to the different subsections of the main topic area you are in, repeated here for your convenience. Notice that they are abbreviated versions of the subsection links that appeared on the main topic pages, but they go to the same information.

To return to a page you previously viewed, click on the Back button at the top left of your computer screen. If you want to go back to the main page of a particular section, click on the section title in the left-hand box that contains all of the major section titles. If you want to go back to the home page for Changing Your Life Through Better Money Management, click on the Home Page link in the top graphic between the CAP and NEFE logos.

PRINTING TIP: To print a page off the Website, be sure to first click on the text you wish to print.

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Site Use Tips

In the course of a typical day at a Community Action Agency, you likely work with program participants who need a wide range of assistance, information and resources. Some participants may come into the CAA only once to get the information they need. Others may come on a regular basis. A few might return frequently and strive to learn as much as they can about becoming self-sufficient.

This site can help you meet the needs of all of these different CAA participants.

  1. One-time use: For participants who come to the CAA once, you can use this Website to help answer their personal finance questions. Look through the Site Content section to find the needed information. You also can print related worksheets and tip sheets to give to participants to take home.
  2. Small-group sessions: If you have returning participants with similar financial issues or questions, you may want to use this Website as the basis for small-group sessions or classes. Use the information that is of most interest to the participants or that you feel would be most beneficial to them. As a group, participants can complete the worksheets connected to each topic and discuss their answers.
  3. Computer workstation: Program participants also might be given time at a computer workstation. They can then read through all sections of the site that interest them and print copies of the information they need.

Every CAA is unique and has its own local issues and concerns. We encourage you to use this site in whatever way best suits your needs and the needs of your participants.

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Site Content

Turning Your Dreams Into Goals
As you know, everyone needs goals. Without goals and dreams—and a way to make them a reality—people have nothing to work toward. Some dreams and goals require money, but many other worthwhile goals do not. This section can help program participants clarify goals and develop plans to reach them.

Goals—Subsections

Building a Path to Your Dreams

  • Suggestions of possible goals
  • Brainstorming ideas to decide on goals

What Are My Goals?

  • Examples of short-term, medium-term and long-term goals

Reaching My Goals

  • How to create specific, attainable and measurable goals

My New Agreements with Money

  • Money is a tool
  • To best use that tool, sometimes it’s necessary to develop new ways of thinking about money

Goals—Worksheets


Managing Your Money
To many of your program participants, managing money may seem like a distant dream. But managing money wisely is one of the biggest steps CAA participants can take to meet their goals and live a more self-sufficient life. Like any new skill, money management can be learned. This section gives participants tools to do just that.

Managing Money—Subsections

Living Within Your Means

  • Examples of the benefits of managing everyday expenses without relying on debt
  • How to stretch money even further for food, clothing and transportation expenses
  • Tips on discerning a "want" from a "need"

Debt (It Doesn't Have to Be a Way of Life)

  • Provides ways of analyzing whether someone is too far in debt
  • 10 signs that someone has a debt problem
  • How much debt is reasonable
  • Tips to get out of debt

Saving Money with a Spending Plan

  • Spending plans (also known as budgets) don’t have to be restrictive
  • Spending plans can take the guesswork out of finances
  • Reasons to save money
  • How to save money even when there’s little to begin with
  • Start saving with small amounts
  • Ways to pay yourself first
  • Tracking where the money goes
  • Setting up a spending plan
  • Tips for saving for family emergencies and other situations

The Benefits of Using a Bank or Credit Union

  • Reasons why it makes sense to open an account at a bank or credit union
  • How to choose a bank or credit union
  • Tips about checking accounts, including finding the best deal, benefits of using a checking account, how checks work, balancing a checkbook, ways to avoid bouncing checks, using an ATM and using a debit card
  • Information about overdraft protection
  • What to look for in a savings account, including the benefits of opening a savings account and finding the best deal
  • Financial options to avoid, such as check-cashing stores, money orders, payday loans, pawnshops, auto pawnbrokers, rent-to-own stores, subprime lending practices and get-rich-quick ideas

Using Credit Wisely

  • Using credit cards responsibly
  • The importance of developing a good credit history, and how to do it
  • Getting a copy of a credit report and learning what it means
  • Correcting errors on a credit report
  • Learning about credit scores and what they mean
  • What to know about new credit card regulations

Your Kids—Priceless (and Expensive)

  • Tips on paying for child-related expenses, including food and clothing
  • Receiving child support payments
  • Keeping health-care costs in line
  • Child-care options, including in-home care and day care
  • Ways to pay for child care

Paying Your Taxes

  • Developing a tax preparation checklist to make tax filing easier
  • Learning about qualifications for Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Care Tax Credit and the Savers Credit, and how to receive them
  • Finding no-cost help to prepare your taxes

Bankruptcy—It’s a Last Resort

  • Why bankruptcy isn’t the easy way out of debt
  • Descriptions of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13
  • Where to get more information about consolidating debt and getting help

Insurance—What to Look For

  • Brief explanations of health, disability, life, auto, renters', and homeowners' insurance

Simple Estate Planning

  • Brief explanations of wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney, and health-care proxies

Managing Money—Worksheets/Tips


Employment ABCs
As you know, a steady income is crucial to a secure future. In addition, the income needs to be high enough to cover adequate housing, clothing, and food at the very least. Your program participants may be looking for a job after a period of unemployment, or they may have jobs, but need to earn more money or have better benefits. This section gives them information to find a job that can open the door to a brighter future.

Employment—Subsections

What Do You Want in a Job?

  • Ideas for finding a job that fits a person’s interests and talents

Places to Look for a Job

  • Where to find jobs

What to Look for in a Job

  • Things to keep in mind when evaluating a prospective employer, including stable work hours and health insurance, including HMOs, PPOs, indemnity plans, POS plans and HSA plans
  • Education benefits
  • Retirement benefits, including pension, 401(k) and 403(b) plans
  • Disability benefits
  • Other benefits, such as dental insurance, life insurance and profit-sharing plans
  • Reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities

Making Yourself Employable

  • Tips on finding child care
  • Finding transportation
  • Updating job skills, and finding places that offer free or low-cost training
  • Buying work clothes

Applications and Resumes

  • Information on completing a job application, including what information to include and what not to include
  • Writing a resume, including whether to use a skills or traditional resume
  • Tips for a winning resume
  • What to say in a cover letter

Preparing for a Job Interview

  • How to prepare for interviews and typical questions that might be asked
  • Doing research on the company and its industry
  • Tips for making a great first impression

The Days After the Interview

  • What to do if the answer is yes—or no

Understanding Your Paycheck

  • Deciphering the numbers on a paycheck
  • Tax withholding, including federal and state income taxes plus Social Security and Medicare taxes
  • Other common deductions, including those for various forms of insurance, retirement plans, contributions to charities, union dues and so on

Employment—Worksheets/Tips


Individual Development Accounts

Saving money is important for anyone. An IDA can help program participants with fewer resources reach their financial goals faster as sponsoring organizations match the money saved by the account holder. This section explains more about IDAs, how to find where they’re offered and what the account can be used for.

IDAs—Subsections

What Is an IDA?

  • Information on IDA matching funds
  • Which organizations sponsor IDAs

Goals of the IDA Program

  • Program developed to assist low-income families in meeting their financial goals with the benefit of matched savings accounts
  • Fosters self-reliance and community strength

How Can an IDA Help Me?

  • Money management skills taught through an IDA program last a lifetime

How Does the IDA Program Work?

  • Explains steps in the application process
  • Requirements and expectations of IDA holders

What Can I Do with My IDA Money?

  • Homeownership
  • Education or vocational training
  • Self-employment or business start-up
  • Some IDAs can be used to fund retirement

IDAs—Worksheets/Tips


Your Housing Options

Having a safe, decent and affordable place to live is one of life’s basic necessities. This section can help program participants who need to upgrade their housing or are considering buying a home. It also has information for those who may be facing a housing crisis and are in jeopardy of losing their housing.

Housing—Subsections

Tips for Renters

  • Explains expenses to expect when renting
  • Tips for cutting rent costs
  • Renters' insurance

Tips for Homeowners

  • Explains debt-to-income ratio
  • How much money is needed to buy a home
  • Down payment and closing costs
  • Advantages of prepurchase counseling
  • The home as a potential wealth builder
  • Homeowners' insurance
  • What to expect with home maintenance
  • What to know about mortgages
  • How buying a home can affect taxes

Is Your Housing at Risk Now?

  • When to talk to the landlord
  • What to say to the landlord
  • Focus on back rent
  • Tips for working with the landlord
  • When to talk to the mortgage company
  • Finding emergency help to raise money
  • Programs to help you stay in your home

Will Your Housing Be at Risk Soon?

  • Tips on avoiding a housing crisis, including cutting transportation and food costs

If Eviction Cannot Be Stopped

  • Finding temporary housing
  • Knowing one’s legal housing rights
  • Taking the next step to finding housing again

Are You Homeless? Here's Help.

  • Tips on finding emergency help
  • Housing options, including emergency shelter, transitional housing, single-room occupancy, shelter plus care, supportive housing program and housing opportunities for persons with AIDS

Housing—Worksheets/Tips

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