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Exploring Financial Literacy Programs in Santa Barbara County

Mastering the art of financial management is a complex and time-consuming process, especially for those juggling multiple jobs to support themselves and their families. Millions of Americans struggle to manage their finances effectively, largely due to a lack of time, resources, and financial literacy. According to a report released by the Federal Reserve in 2017, nearly one in four American adults are unable to pay all of their current month’s bills on time.

Just like the rest of the country, many Santa Barbara County residents face financial issues and are in need of critical resources such as financial management training and support services. Fortunately, local businesses and non-profit organizations in Santa Barbara County are teaming up with outstanding community volunteers to provide financial literacy resources to those who need it most.

One of the largest programs in the county is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, led by the United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC). Each year, UWSBC recruits, trains and certifies over 100 community volunteers to become IRS certified tax preparers.

“Once certified, volunteers begin preparing and filing taxes for the community for free,” said Melinda Cabrera, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the United Way of Santa Barbara County. “During the program, we also partner with local banks and financial agencies to provide additional information for clients.” Throughout the year, financial literacy classes are offered through UWSBC’s financial partners. During the summer, the organization partners with Montecito Bank & Trust to provide financial literacy classes for children and their parents as part of their Fun in the Sun summer learning program.

Community volunteers are comprised of high school students, university students, and adults from Santa Barbara County. Jesus Terrazas, a fourth-year communications major at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is one of the many community volunteers who are passionate about helping others succeed financially. With the support of Montecito Bank & Trust, Jesus began volunteering as a tax preparer when he was a sophomore at Santa Barbara High School.

Jesus has also taught elementary students key financial literacy skills as part of the Fun in the Sun program, and he believes that educating young people is just as important as educating adults. “Financial literacy is not a skill that everyone has, but it’s one that everyone needs. Montecito Bank & Trust is covering that gap by educating people of all ages,” explains Jesus. “The whole community has benefited from this program. Students who learn these skills at a young age are more likely to make smart financial decisions later in life. Teens receiving financial literacy training in high school have an opportunity to prepare before heading off to college. And adults who want to improve their financial habits have definitely benefited from this program – for example, we’ve helped people open savings accounts with their Tax Refund money rather than spending it.”

The United Way of Santa Barbara County and Montecito Bank & Trust are leading the way forward, and they rely on passionate community volunteers to inform, educate, and inspire change. If you are interested in volunteering or just want to learn more about the various financial literacy programs in our county, additional information is available at: United Way of Santa Barbara County by clicking here and Montecito Bank & Trust by clicking here.

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