Common Cents

by RISE Foundation, Inc.
Common Cents
RISE at Bank Fair
RISE at Bank Fair

At a recent financial wellness and education fair hosted by area banking institutions in Memphis and open to all residents of Memphis and Shelby County, RISE discussed its available programs and what benefits we offer to assist employers in educating its workforce in credit repair and sustaining financial health.

Through the Common Cents Series area employers both large and small have an opportunity to educate their workforce over a weekly or monthly timeframe that allows employees to gather in groups offered in the workplace and discuss strategies to combat debt and repair credit using the RISE curriculum. 

The RiSE Foundation has successfully formulated a method of reciprecal instruction for the Common Cents program that empowers employers with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefit that provides additional resources for  HR professionals and delivers strong ROI that the Common Cents series guarantees for their EAP utilization.    

RISE has historically proven that Common Cents works and is a valuable benefit for employers to offer their employees.  This much needed benefit of financial literacy awareness assists in various ways for employers, mainly increased productivity and decreased absenteeism because of less financial stress by employees utilizing work hours to address financial crises. Employees directly benefit by taking advantage of services offered on their job and with the support of their coworkers and managers.  

Many companies welcome a solution to their low EAP use, RISE shows them how they can boost their EAP participation through the Common Cents Series.  Although there are other programs available, there are few that address financial literacy with the same customization approach as Common Cents.   

The financial wellness and education fair was a huge sucess and the collaboration of local NPO, banking institutions and CDC groups proved that Memphis and its citizens are serious about improving the cities poverty rate and circumstances of our communities.  

To learn more about the RISE Common Cents Series or any of the programs that the RISE Foundatioin offers please visit our website at  Your critical support helps RISE to serve low-income families with financial education and break the cycle of generational poverty in Memphis.  

Fair Partners
Fair Partners
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class discussion
class discussion

In Memphis, Tennessee there is an organization that has been working to provide poor Memphians an exodus to hope since 1989.  The Emmanuel Center (EC) has helped hundreds of families living in poverty improve their circumstances by linking them to their wide circle of community resources.  EC is constantly networking with human service agencies, partnering churches, social service organizations, and other ministries to coordinate support programs in the South Memphis neighborhood formerly known as Foote Homes. 

Today, this community is better known as South City, and efforts are underway to bring residents that relocated due to the redevelopment back to their roots.  And with the help of deep investment and community revitalization efforts of organizations like the Women's Foundation of Greater Memphis (WFGM) and the RISE Foundation, former residents like Ms. Juanita S are taking part in Common Cents classes instituted to ensure that they are returning to their former communities as financially acute homeowners.  

Ms. Juanita came to the class to get a strategic plan in place to combat her credit card debt, with the help of RISE, she was able to formulate a plan that included eventually establishing her seasonal hobby into supplemental income that she could apply to paying down her debt.  Her spending plan also focused on making a strong effort to keep her card balances below 30 percent of their limit. "This class has been very empowering for me", Juanita said. “I can't wait to finally take charge of my finances now that I have had the opportunity to hear someone explain to me why I've had setbacks when trying to correct my credit problems”.

The Emmanuel Center Common Cents class was organized by the WFGM and was facilitated by RISE.  Class participants were engaged and full of questions about how credit is established, accumulated and analyzed.  As with so many groups like these, there was a greater need to understand how to manage the money that currently comes into their households.  The Center’s clients are residents of the 38126 ZIP Code in South Memphis – one of the poorest communities in the nation. Poverty runs rampant here. Almost two-thirds live at or below the poverty line – including a third who scrape by at 50% of the poverty level (less than $12,000 a year for a family of four). More than half are unemployed and less than half have graduated high school. 

RISE provided a curriculum packed with realistic expectations and achievable first steps in debt management.  Sound practices of saving and budgeting were heavily emphasized.  Class participants were surprised to find that a carefully crafted spending plan would allow for any budget to implement a savings strategy. 

After undertaking several debt management scenarios, class attendants felt that they had overcome their greatest challenge, the fear of acknowledging bad spending habits.  "This class that RISE has shared with us is a huge benefit, now I can reduce my financial stress and help my grandchildren to make better choices when it comes to handling money" said Ms. Juanita.  With the tools that they received from the Common Cents class, participants felt that they were now capable of improving their financial stability.  

EC member
EC member
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Did you know, one in five employees have financial problems enough to affect productivity?  According to the Federal Reserve Bank, those employees will spend 20 hours a month on the job trying to resolve those problems.  That’s why corporate partners like Tennessee Valley Authority and donors like you support life changing programs at RISE. The Common Cents program through the RISE Foundation teaches best practices and proper financial management that can be implemented into any budget and household. 

 The Rise Foundation in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) collaborated to bring money-saving weather-rising techniques and resources to Mid-South residents. Local churches provided event space so that the classes could be held close to participants homes. RISE was able to provide six of these Common Cents classes (serving 74 homeowners). Employees from various companies participated and brought their families.  There were also many community groups, and church organizations who were present and utilized this information to better their senior citizens residences and businesses. 

 TVA provided educational materials about energy efficiency and how to become more energy conscious by using improved light bulbs and setting proper thermostat levels.  They also offered home improvements and special energy modifications to qualified low-income households to help reduce their utility bills. Many of the families were older adults who really needed to know that keeping their homes over-heated or too cold, drives up the cost of their utility services.

 RISE was able to provide financial literacy for those being served so that they can use the lower energy costs to better meet their family financial needs. Because of the classes participants were able to better organize budgets to include their utility cost in their spending plans. Classes were interactive and helped explain the look of electronic utility bills and how to navigate them.  Instruction specifically concentrated on the periods of time when their energy costs spiked and potential causes.  A unique benefit of these collaborations was as families learned additional information on energy consumption, RISE staff learned additional tips that they could share in their classes and throughout the Common Cents Network.          

 RISE proves that providing workers with the tools they need to improve their personal financial stability benefits both employees and their employers.  About 2,000 Memphis-area employees from more than 50 companies and nonprofit agencies have successfully completed the Common Cents curriculum in such topics as banking, budgeting, debt management, spending strategies and retirement.  Employee financial stress can result in decreased productivity, higher rates of tardiness and absenteeism, higher healthcare costs, wage garnishment, and employment turnover.  Common Sense classes are available to nonprofits, businesses and church groups.  For more information about how you can support RISE or give the gift of financial literacy to members of your organization, please contact us at (901) 507-6644.


Common Cents
Common Cents


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Two students listening and learning
Two students listening and learning

This month, the RISE Foundation collaborated with Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Project MOST to provide a Common Cents workshop for this year’s program participants. Kariem-Abdul Salaam, Project MOST Director, welcomed RISE Foundation’s Rodney Lomax to present a session for over 80 participants. The Project M.O.S.T. program is grant-funded through the U.S. Department of Education's Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI) initiative and is designed to give preference and assistance to first-year African-American male students in college.

Mr. Lomax presentation was filled with best practices related to budgeting and credit. Most of the young men present were between the ages of 17-24 and both Mr. Salaam and Mr. Lomax felt it was important to impart the young men with relative information and examples that will allow them to make wise choices. Ms. Salaam noted that his experience had taught him that once students received their financial aid awards they sometime use them unwisely. Mr. Lomax shared how he gained from training while with RISE, as well as his personal life lessons, to paint a picture of the pitfalls that people can fall into when using their money or credit unwisely.

Everyone in attendance, including staff, seemed to be appreciative in learning how to better budget their finances, fill in money gaps, and also how to recognize and change poor spending habits. In light of the recent Equifax data breach, Mr. Lomax also recommended participants take steps to protect their credit by using certain monitoring strategies. He also gave examples of the real-life cost of having poor credit and how to go about improving credit scores.

The young men listen attentively and seem to be anxious to understand how financial management skills and techniques can really make a difference in trimming the monthly cost of expenses. It is eventually hoped that the lessons learned by these young men will help them one day to plan financially for their families and specifically the future of their children. What they know can be transferred around the kitchen table with their children as it was done in the past for thriving families in our community.

Your support has made this class with project MOST possible.  With your  support we can serve even more young men who really need to learn how to manage their financial resources to create happy families in the future!

Your support has made it possible for RISE to give the gift of Financial Literacy to this group of young men in college.   Your continued support will help us serve even more young people in the future.  Helping them to realize that they can leave college, prepared for their careers - debt free!  It just takes a little Common Cents!

Common Cents with MOST Class
Common Cents with MOST Class
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Saturday Seminar
Saturday Seminar

On Saturday, June 17th, RISE offered our Common Cents training FREE to the general public. 

Common Cents, a workplace financial education program, was launched in 2007 in response to broad based concern about poor credit and bankruptcy issues in the Memphis area.  Common Cents traditionally is offered to area employers for their employees whether salary or hourly workers the gift of financial literacy.  The opportunity increases productivity, decrease absenteeism and create greater workforce productivity.  More than 4,000 Memphis-based employees from 70 companies/organizations have successfully completed the curriculum

Our curriculum features topics  for employees to choose from such as banking and budgeting. For this class we added: 

  1. Determining your money personality
  2. Developing a spending plan
  3. Filling in money gaps
  4. How to change poor spending habits
  5. Determining a short financial goal and determining what action are needed to achieve it.
  6. On-line Banking

The training took place at the Poplar/White Station Library. Those in attendance represented a cross section of the Memphis community. We are able to reach a greater population due to donors like you!  Thank you for allowing RISE to do what we love.  RISE's mission is to empower people to become self-sufficient by building and sustaining human and financial assets.  Please consider donating to help us continue to reach our goal of educating every child, adult and senior in the Memphis area on financial literacy. 

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Organization Information

RISE Foundation, Inc.

Location: Memphis, TN - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @RISEmemphis
Project Leader:
Linda Williams
Memphis , Tennessee United States
$2,075 raised of $40,000 goal
24 donations
$37,925 to go
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