Common Cents

by RISE Foundation, Inc.
Common Cents

As we end 2015 and plan to begin 2016, you can see how eagerly the RISE Common Cents participants are learning new skills and techniques that help them begin a habit of saving for emergencies and for the future every day.  Even though most of the individuals who attend the Common Cents Classes are from low income working families - one thing they all have in common is the desire to make better choices with the financial resources they have. 

Why do these folks come to RISE?  Either their employer has made this class possible for them to attend, or they have meet someone who has gone through the class; and seen firsthand how good money management skills can make a difference - the difference in how they are able to meet their family’s need.  Like LaTonya who is pictured here with a glowing smile.  She doesn’t earn a great deal to support herself and four children, but her co-workers constantly ask her, “How are you able to provide the things that you do for you family when you make less than we do?”  Her response is always, “I have learned through the RISE Foundation, how to comparison shop, use coupons, keep a monthly spending plan and always set aside money each month that goes into my savings account.”  LaTonya has become a walking advertisement for RISE.  She demonstrates how Common Cents has helped her save, purchase a home, car and a family computer, that both she and her children use.

In the Common Cents class, information is shared with participants not only on how to develop spending plans but how credit scores determine the cost of goods and services that they buy over time.  When class participants actually see how credit scores are determined, they are surprised to see that it does not include the amount of money that you earn – it focuses mostly on how well you manage your money, and credit card usage.  They are simply amazed that they can have a credit score of over 700 with their entry level wages, if they use the money management skills learned in the class.

One day the RISE Foundation, has a vision that everyone in the community will have the opportunity to participate in facilitated classes that will bring money management skills to everyone in the Mid-South area.  We have the waiting list, so we have people who want to move forward like LaTonya. Through your contributions and the contributions of others, RISE can make this vision a reality. Please help us today!

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A Common Cents Smile
A Common Cents Smile

As in most urban communities, Memphis and Shelby County has its share of families not able to provide for the basic needs of their families.  With one of the highest poverty rates in the country (28+ %) RISE has concentrated on helping families with tools and techniques that can maximized their income while minimizing their expenditures.  Individuals who come to the Common Cents classes always ask, "How is that possible, when I don't have enough income to meet my needs?"

Well, the next discussion involves the difference between a want and a need.  Too often families have succumbed to the desires of their heart by purchasing items that exceed their value because it is the "stylish" thing to do.  For example, does a growing teenager really need to have a tennis shoe that cost $250.00 but will be too little to wear before the end of the school year?  Are those shoes really a "need" or a "want"?  This may be a simple question to most people but far too often families, in an effort to satisfy their children's desires, aren't sitting down with them to clearly explain the impact of these type of purchases on the family’s financial well-being.

Well that's not the case for Ms. Brooks and her family since she has gone through the Common Cents program and learned not only how to develop a spending plan, but how to pay off high interest credit cards and positives of cash only transactions.  This has actually helped the Brooks family have more money available to the family for their basic needs, to save, and have a special family activity each month.

Now that the Brooks children are involved in spending plan decisions, the children are also learning sound money management tips that they will have for the rest of their lives.  You see, it's all about a little common sense that all came from the RISE Common Cents class.

In an effort to bring this facilitated training to more families in the community, RISE plans to conduct training classes for other nonprofit organizations so that “Common Cents” can become contagious.  The more people who use it and share it with others, the reach of RISE will spread like "wild fire", with more smiling faces like Ms. Brooks.  Your support has, and will make this happen.  RISE appreciates every dollar that comes to support families to make better financial choises. Who knows, your support might just help reduce the rate of poverty in this community or at least for one family.

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Common Cents Class
Common Cents Class

To all of the supporters of the RISE Common Cents Program,

When I look at this class picture, I remember what life was like for me when I first came to RISE.  I cashed my check at the corner check cashing place in my neighborhood because I thought that banks were for people who had a lot of money.  So paying $8.00 a week to cash my check was something that I, along with all of the people that I knew, did without a second thought.

When I got my check, I always paid my rent and then my utilities.  Since my four children needed to have a little fun, I always either took them roller skating or at least out to McDonalds for a nice meal.  By the time I paid for these extras, $50.00 easily left my purse.  Of course, I needed to buy food for the week and by the time I finished grocery shopping, my funds were in a negative state.  I always tried to keep a credit card but when it reached the limit, it was always embarrassing to have your purchases rejected. If my kids were with me, it felt even worse.  I cried inside when they held their heads down and looked to see if anyone they knew was nearby.

When I had enough of barely living paycheck to paycheck, I decided that I needed to do better.  A friend of mine had gone through the Common Cents program and she always talked about how it helped her to not only pay her bills but to start a savings account for emergencies.  So I went to RISE and I clearly remembered being seated in the chairs around tables with other who were learning how they could make better choices with their pay checks. 

The instructor talked to us about short term and long term goals.  This allowed me to dream a little.  I wanted to be debt free first and then try saving for a better place for me and my kids to live.  So my goal was to become debt free and RISE helped me with putting together a plan to reach this goal.  I am proud to say that now three years later, I am not only debt free, but have a checking and savings account  with a job that pays more. RISE helped me to understand that using banks will actually save me money and it’s a safe place for my money to be kept.  One day I want to purchase a home - in a good neighborhood with good schools, but I know it takes time. With my plan – I know I can do it!

Thanks to RISE and the Common Cents trainers, things are really looking up for me.

Karen B.

A Common Cents Class Participant who is still learning


With your support RISE can reach more families like Ms. B, who is pictured in this classroom.  We may not be able to actually provide better jobs to those we touch, but we can help them to make better financial choices with the resources they have.

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Although our Common Cents program was initially intended to teach financial literacy skills to hourly workers, we have found that the lessons in the classes are applicable to many populations.  Right now, we are proud to be partnering with the Community Alliance for the Homeless to teach valuable financial literacy skills to families who are chronically homeless.

Without the skills and behavior changes necessary to make the best of their income, many of these families will move into new homes, only to be unable to maintain them, and will become homeless again.

RISE has partnered with seven agencies serving homeless families to teach these skills.  We are proud to be nearing our goal of 200 families, equipped with the skills to make the most of their income and live a financially stable lifestyle.

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Common Cents is a financial literacy program focused on  helping low-wage workers to make better choices in how they spend their hard earned money.  Recently the facilitated class was offered to a small company in Memphis and immediately the owner, saw his hourly employees keeping track of their receipts so they could actually see how much money they spent on things outside of their household expenses.  To some this may seem like a "common sense" thing to do, but with the invention of credit cards, debit card, etc., purchases are often made with little consideration of how it affects the user's ability to meet essential  obligations (rent, utilities, food for the family, etc.).

One of the Common Cents participants, Ricco saw this quickly, when he added up his first set of weekly receipts and saw that he spend over $50 for  sodas, chips, cookies and other non-essential items in one week.  That $50 could have been used to pay for gas to get him to work each week.  So now, thanks to your support of the RISE Common Cents Program, Ricco is watching what he spends by setting up a  budget that will allow him  to spend no more than $5 each week for items that he can actually do without or bring from home.

Thanks to all who support the RISE Common Cents program and remember, it brings a little" Common Sense" back to money management for folks who really need it like Ricco!  Remember with a small contributions to RISE, it will make the difference in the life of one person who really needs it to make their earnings  stretch to meet the needs of their family!

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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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