Common Cents

by RISE Foundation, Inc.

Per the Federal Reserve Bank, employees will spend 20 hours a month on the job trying to resolve life’s financial problems at home. This stress can lead to a host of negative effects from loss in employee performance to increased healthcare cost.

RISE has been a steward of Memphis Housing Authority’s vision in transforming the landscape of Memphis. RISE continues to use its expertise in money management in helping people learn how to become financially stable and how to manage their household economies. RISE believes that each person served adds to the strength of a new Memphis.

In the Fall of 2016, RISE partnered with Urban Strategies Memphis HOPE to expose residents who were being transitioned out of their homes to financial education. As part of the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, this neighborhood is being rebuilt to revitalize South City, an older housing development neighborhood of Memphis. RISE held onsite trainings for those specific residents implementing our Common Cents curriculum. Common Cents provided participants with the tools they need to improve their personal financial lives which impacts not only the participants, but also their family members and employers.

Common Cents worked with these residents who were combating the stresses of moving so that they would be able to have the foresight to focus on financial wellbeing during this time of transition. Participant training included budgeting, goal setting, banking and best financial practices that residents can be armed with once they have received their new housing.

RISE Foundation has worked extensively with the Memphis Housing Authority and those organizations charged with managing the services provided to public housing residents to assist in bettering the landscape of Memphis throughout its 16-year history.  Please consider contributing to help RISE continue establishing positive incentives and forging partnerships with all businesses to transform the shape of public housing and its residents.
Mid-South Food Bank Common Cents Class
Mid-South Food Bank Common Cents Class

Some businesses really get it!  They understand the importance of Financial Literacy to the productivity of their staff.  If employees are to give their best at work, they can’t worry about creditors calling them on the job or having their wages garnished.  When this happens, it is not only embarrassing to the worker, it also creates additional cost for the employer who must produce one check for the employee and one additional check that must be sent to the courts until the debt is satisfied.  For employees who don’t make a great deal of money, this can cause even more stress that can produce physical symptoms, that often lead to poor attendance and poor attention to tasks that must be performed in a safe manner on the job.

 One local organization in Memphis – the Food Bank of the Mid-South truly gets it!  They want their staff to be financially secure as they help improve the food security of thousands of families in the mid-south area. So every other year, RISE goes on site and provides the “Common Cents” program for over 20 + employees of the nonprofit organization.  As you can see from the class picture, the Food Bank staff are serious with the class and want to learn more about not just making ends meet each payday, but making the ends over-lap. You see they learn in the Common Cents class the importance of saving money each pay period to the point that it becomes a routine transaction on payday. They learn how to avoid making hasty decisions that often cost more than if they waited and planned for the purchases.  

As the staff at the Food Bank learns improved money management skills, they can pass those on to their family, friends, others in the community, and even to those they serve.  You see Common Cents is contagious and you can help it to spread to others with every donation that you make to RISE!   Your donation not only will help with the spread of financial management skills but it will also produce smiling faces like the one you see in the picture, after completing the Food Bank of the Mid-South's Common Cents class!  Thank you for every gift you make to RISE, because your gifts spread sound financial management to others who need it!

Smiling when you know how to handle your money!
Smiling when you know how to handle your money!

RISE provides the Common Cents (financial literacy) class to residence of Shelby County, who want to improve their financial health.  Most of them are low to moderate income individuals, who are initially reluctant to share the “real deal” about their financial condition.  Once in the class, and meet others in similar situations, the “flood gate” of sharing begins.   

For example, Linda talked about being in an abusive situation, and the abuser would not allow her to be involved in any of the financial transaction of the household.  Through counseling and the help of her family, she was able to get out of the situation but then was left with bills in her name that the abuser stopped paying.  Without his income, she was in a terrible predicament.   Linda shared how she was able to learn in the Common Cents class about developing a spending plan and comparing it to the amount of money that she was earning.   When they didn’t match, she looked at ways of aligning them, one of which was contacting the creditors to make payment arrangements. Linda now shares with others how she was able to reduce stress in her life as a result of taking control of her situation – both emotionally and financially.

Then there’s Latasha, who took the class in an effort to start building her credit to purchase a home for her family.  She knew she wanted a home but wasn’t sure about how to get ready financially to take on a loan.  Through the Common Cents class, Latasha learned about the importance of reviewing your credit report at least once each year. When she reviewed her report, there were items that she knew nothing about on the report.   Rather than paying someone to correct the report, she was able to write the credit bureau to challenge the entries and they were removed. She was happy to see her credit score increase!

At the end of the class, the facilitator gives certificates to each participant and photographs are taken highlighting that they have the skills and tools to make sound financial decisions.  Most of them share this information with their families, co-workers and others they know.  RISE encourages Common Cents participants to share what they have learned in order to expand the reach of RISE to others in the community.  That’s what RISE is all about – helping individuals/families to help themselves, with the expectation that the information will cascade to others in their network of family and friends.  

Ms. Verna
Ms. Verna

Ms. Verna maybe well over the age of 65 but she knows the importance of continuing to set financial goals and watching where your money goes. She attributes this to why she is able to keep a smile on her face and to live life. Ms. Verna talks about the instances where she has had some of her checks stolen from the mail box in front of the post office and then, somehow re-written to others for cash.  She feels extremely fortunate to have tellers at her bank, who double check things when people they don’t know enter the bank to cash checks on other folks accounts.  This saved her the possible loss of over $500.00 which could have been devastating for her to go through all of the process to get her money back.

Ms. Verna shares with others the importance of going through programs at RISE like ‘Common Cents’, to help them see the importance of using traditional banks and keeping up with their balances as well as reconciling their bank account on a monthly basis.  She has talked to others who experienced the same fraudulent activity with money orders and cash transactions and some of them never recovered their money.  According toMs. Verna, this can be a major set-back for someone on a fixed income, who already has trouble making ends meet any way.

So what does Ms. Verna do now?  Well she keeps a brochure in her purse to tell others about RISE and the ‘Common Cents’ program.  She also tells them that no matter what your age maybe, that setting aside a certain amount each month for savings is something that everyone should continue to do.  If you aren’t worried about emergency household expenses because of your residentially living arrangements, then everyone should be saving for a vacation, giving to their church/charities  and perhaps a little for the unexpected needs relating to the education of their grandchildren.  She feels that everyone should go through a course like ‘Common Cents’ because common cents is still important for everyone to have , especially when it comes to financial security.

Your contribution to RISE that will support the Common Cents program, will allow others like Ms. Verna to have more joy in their life without having the stress of worrying about how they will pay needed expenses.  As a matter of fact “Common Cents is a good Rx (prescription) with good side effects – peace of mind, possible joy and a little happiness”, according to Ms. Verna! 


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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Organization Information

RISE Foundation, Inc.

Location: Memphis, TN - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Linda Williams
Memphis, Tennessee United States

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