Friday, April 29, 2016

Financial Literacy Month: Mary Chats with Gina Douvas of Merrill Lynch about Financial Literacy

Inspiring Our Girls to Achieve Financial Success

As we wrap up Financial Literacy Month, there’s no better time to reflect on our partnerships with financial institutions like Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. These partnerships provide much-needed support to the over 35,000 young women we serve across the state. I recently sat down with Gina Douvas, Vice President/ Senior Resident Director, Wealth Management at Merrill Lynch, to talk about some of the work they’ve sponsored over the last few years.

Mary: For the past three years, the Soundview Women’s Exchange Chapter at Merrill Lynch has collaborated on a program we call “Money Matter$”, which sets up Girl Scouts with mentors and takes them through an annual financial literacy and career training program. Can you talk a little bit about why this program is so important?

Gina: Financial literacy is an essential skill that helps enable our youth to succeed in college, their careers, and dealing with the economic future that lies ahead. Our group firmly believes in the importance of providing the young women in our community with the skills they need to achieve financial success.

Mary: We’re so happy that you’ve made this commitment to our girls! Can you talk a little bit about the program?

Gina: Mentors are comprised of Merrill Lynch employees who dedicate their time to the program each year. Young women are educated on how to track expenses, build savings, and finding ways to give back to their community. At the same time, they are paired with these mentors who have chosen to pursue a career path in financial services, allowing them to recognize that “If you can see it, you can be it.”

 Mary: We’ve seen great response from not only the young women involved in the program, but parents are also seeing a difference. We’re working to include an additional component that will include parents, and potentially the opportunity to provide financial literacy training for the whole family.

Gina: That’s right! I’ve seen the impact myself and am looking forward to enrolling my own daughter into the program. The girls are not only taught financial literacy skills, but they also develop leadership skills and understand the importance of giving back from their mentors.

Mary: Can you talk a little bit about Better Money Habits, which is used to create some of these training materials?

Gina: Bank of America has partnered with online educator Sal Khan and Khan Academy to build The platform takes Khan’s approach to simplifying intimidating topics and applies it to topics that young people can relate to, such as how to manage student debt. We have videos and articles on the site that break down some of these issues for all ages, which is very helpful for a program like Money Matter$, and we also used the Student Financial Handbook to help create the curriculum.

Thank you Gina, and everyone at Merrill Lynch who has dedicated their time and efforts to the young women of Connecticut. We look forward to many more successful programs in the years to come!

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