Financial Literacy Leading to a Healthier Community
Crystal Petry, the Iconium Missionary Baptist Church Grant Manager, grew up in a household that didn’t talk about money. Like so many others, she didn’t know how interest rates worked, loans, debt, or how to stay on track with a weekly budget.
“We never talked about a checking account or savings account, or any of that when I was growing up. So, I had no financial education at all. You know, of course I had the education in school—the reading, the writing, the math, all of those things, but they don’t teach about finances in schools,” explained Ms. Petry.
After graduating college with $88,000 in student loans, she was told it would take her at least 30 years to pay the loans and be debt free.
“Thirty years! So, when you think about that, that’s like 30 years of me behind. Right? Thirty years of me in the negative, starting back. So, I don’t have the chance to start at the finish line, you know if I’m going to use the analogy, I have to wait for people to have run, like, two miles before I can even start my first lap.”
It all changed when she first attended Iconium Missionary Baptist Church where Pastor Robert Walker hosts financial literacy classes for congregation members. Hesitant at first, Ms. Petry decided to sit in on one of the classes and was immediately hooked. She continued to go to the classes year after year, learning more and utilizing the resources and skill set in her life.
“He was able to teach the class on my level, as well as the level of other participants, but teach the class on my level. I remember the first thing that he was able to help me with through the classes was that I had purchased a car a year in advance, prior to taking these classes, and my interest rate was 36 percent. I had no idea about interest rates, or what I was paying off in total—I was just happy to have a car. So, through the class I learned about re-financing, and I was able to re-finance the car for six percent.”
Through this process of learning and implementing, Ms. Petry found her life-passion and realized the importance of financial literacy and education. She now acts as a leader and grant manager for Iconium Missionary Baptist Church, helping run the financial education program.
“I’m really, really so excited and I was so happy that we were chosen to partner with It’s Time Texas because I know the value of education. I know the value of financial literacy and with the partnership it has enabled me to open it up to the public.”
Prior to the partnership with It’s Time Texas, the finance classes were only available to the Church’s congregation. Now, it has opened up to the entire community.
“I use the term ‘building capacity’ because the partnership and financial education is allowing us to build capacity in a way that we are going to teach this information, and once we remove ourselves from it, the people who have gathered that information will be able to go on and be stronger, and continue to learn and understand the importance of financial literacy on their own,” said Ms. Petry.
Ms. Petry has seen this capacity building first-hand while helping advertise, teach, and run the financial class program.
“In our first class this year, we had a spectrum of people in our class. One was a male in his 70s who had never had any financial education. He was very excited to get the information and learn, and I kid you not, every time after the class he would say, okay I got to hurry up and go and call my son so I can give him this new information.”
This sharing of information positively effects the community, as many of her students will pass on what they learned in class to their children, parents, grandparents, friends, etc. Making the community more educated as a whole.
The It’s Time Texas Collaborative Innovations for Community Health project focuses on community-based organizations who are addressing social determinants of health in their communities. Targeting four areas across Texas, the funding supports delivery of effective programs and services that improve critical health outcomes and address root casus of health disparities, remove barriers to access, and advance community conditions for health and wellness.
Ms. Petry understands that when society hears the word “health,” they automatically think of working out, drinking water, or eating healthy. “Which isn’t wrong,” she said. “But many people neglect to think about the importance of finances and how that directly affects your health. Once you understand how to spend your paycheck, you can start making better decisions and affording healthier things you couldn’t before—like fresher vegetables or more nutritious foods.”
When you start learning how to save and spend responsibly, everything falls into place. You can afford the more expensive water bottle instead of the 99-cent soda. You can choose to go to the doctor earlier, instead of putting it off and having to rush to the E.R.
“One of our students agreed to be interviewed as part of our marketing for our next round of classes. When I asked if he had put into practice anything we’d taught him, he said he did. He started doing automatic withdrawals from his checking to his savings account. Then he said, once he reaches a goal amount, he’s going to start investing. He didn’t know how to do any of these things before. I was amazed. He gets it!” said Ms. Petry.
The Iconium Baptist Missionary Church in Beaumont, Texas began another series of classes on October 20th. The classes are six weeks in length and offer basic to more advanced information, teaching at the level of each student.
Supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant, the It’s Time Texas Collaborative Innovations for Community Health project is proud to see how far Iconium Missionary Baptist Church has come and the positive impact they’ve made on their community. Health comes in various forms, and financial education is one social determinant of health that will lead to a more equitable state.