Money Management

Refugees arrive in the United States with a range of experiences in money management. During their initial resettlement period they experience many firsts in money management, often at an accelerated rate. A key component of being successful requires that refugees not only become self-sufficient by finding employment as soon as possible, but that they develop knowledge, attitudes, and skills that will allow them to navigate the complex financial system in the United States. Cultural Orientation providers can explore a variety of activities, complete lesson plans, and additional resources that address key messages in the Money Management Objectives & Indicators.

Activity Bank

Financial Systems Discussion

This activity is ideal for discussing participants’ experiences in managing finances and financial systems and drawing comparisons to systems in the U.S. Use in-person or virtually

  1. Conduct the Pre-Assessment Questionnaire with participants. Review the answers and ask the follow-up questions provided within the Pre-Assessment Questionnaire.
  2. Provide participants with the Money Management fact sheet or podcast, and use the Money Management in the United States Guided Worksheet to guide participants in learning about the financial system in the United States.
  3. If participants are already familiar with the United States financial system, invite them to share that information.
  4. Ask participants to compare their country/ies of origin and/or protection with the United States. What is similar? What is different?

  • The pre-assessment is designed to both help you understand the existing experience of participants, and have participants begin to reflect on their own experiences with money management.
  • You may conduct the questionnaire orally with the group or have participants complete it independently.
  • If using the podcast, the fact sheet can serve as a transcript for the interpreter.
  • If using the podcast, consider pausing at different sections for interpretation, and also to conduct additional knowledge checks or answer questions.

Taken from CORE’s Money Management Lesson Plan

Money Management Card Sort Activity

This activity is ideal for defining key concepts related to money management, including essential needs, banking, budgeting, credit, and debt. Use in-person.

  1. Before the session starts, print and cut out the Key Words and Definitions for Money Management.
  2. Explain to participants that they are each going to receive a card. Explain that some will receive a card with a word, and others will receive a card with a definition. The word cards are orange and the definition cards are blue.
  3. Ask the participants to move around the room and find the person with the card that matches the word to its definition.
  4. Share with participants the Money Management fact sheet or podcast, which has the definitions for the key words. Ask them to review their answers once more and correct themselves if necessary.
  5. Review the answers. Ask participants to explain their choices and correct as necessary.

  • Depending on the size and knowledge level of the group, you can have multiple card sorts occurring simultaneously, turning this activity into a competition.
  • If conducting one-on-one CO, you may turn this into a matching activity.
  • You may select which vocabulary words you would like to use. Keep in mind the cognitive load of participants and which concepts are most important to them to be successful in managing their finances.

Taken from CORE’s Money Management Lesson Plan

Financial Milestones Game

This activity is ideal to explore money management and finances using scenarios grounded in the refugee resettlement experience. Best for in-person use, but see Modifications and Tips for virtual use.

  1. Before the session, select and cut out Financial Milestone Game Cards.
  2. Ask participants to stand in a line. Stand about 15 to 20 feet across from the participants. The participants should be facing you.
  3. Explain to the participants that you are a financial advisor and that their goal is to make their way toward you. In order to move forward they will draw a card.
  4. Each card has information about an event or decision that affects their finances. Based on the information on the card, they can make a request to move forward toward you, the financial advisor. They can ask to move one step, or two steps, or you can provide more specific guidelines.
  5. As the financial advisor you can honor their request, you can modify it and give them permission to move forward more than one step, or even ask them to move backwards, particularly if the event is not positive for their finances.
  6. During the game you may want to ask participants why someone was allowed or not allowed to move forward. Answer any questions they may have about the information on the cards.
  7. The first participant to reach you, the financial advisor, wins the game.
  8. Ask the following debrief questions:
    • What are the different financial milestones you may encounter in your new life in the United States?
    • What actions resulted in your ability to move forward? What actions set you back?
    • What are some actions you can take when you have financial challenges?
    • What are some proactive financial decisions and actions you can take?

  • You may need to adapt the game as appropriate for use with interpreters.
  • You may have participants act as the financial advisor or work in pairs together.
  • If conducting virtually, you can use the each game card as a scenario to facilitate discussion. You could also create a virtual game board.

Taken from CORE’s Money Management Lesson Plan

Finances Vision Board

This activity is ideal to have participants consider their financial futures throughout their resettlement experience. Use in-person or virtually.

  1. Ask participants to imagine that they have been in the United States for three months. Ask them to answer the question: What would financial success look like?
  2. Record the answers. You may have them answer in groups or provide each participant with post-it notes to give their answers. Review answers.
  3. Now ask participants to imagine that they have been in the United States for one year. Ask them to answer the question: What would financial success look like? Record the answers and review.
  4. Then ask participants to imagine that they have been in the United States for three years. Ask them to answer the question: What would financial success look like? Record the answers and review.
  5. Ask participants to explain how their financial situation will change during their resettlement experience. Help participants make connections between how the choices in the first three months will influence future financial success, and make connections to the key messages of the lesson.

  • If in person: paper, post-it, markers
  • Magazine, images (Optional, see Modifications and Tips)

  • The answers to these questions will vary greatly based on how long the participants have been in the United States, and it may be necessary to provide guidance as they think about the future.
  • Time and materials permitting, participants can represent their vision boards visually, using magazines, photos, or drawing on paper.
  • Monitor and provide direction to ensure that participants are proposing realistic goals.
  • If possible, you may want to work with other organizations to offer participants more education and training on financial literacy topics.
  • If you have conducted the Financial Milestones Game, you can apply the lessons learned during that activity to this activity.

Taken from CORE’s Money Management Lesson Plan

Planning for Expenses Using Settle In app Activity

This activity is ideal for discussing different cost of living expenses and basic money management skills. Use in-person or virtually.

  1. Ask participants to define the term “cost of living.” Explain to participants that the cost of living varies from one region to another, and can sometimes be very high. Ask participants: What is included in the cost of living? Record responses and add to list as needed. Explain that finding and keeping a job and practicing responsible money management is important to a secure financial future.
  2. Access Settle In (available in multiple languages) either through the mobile or desktop app.
  3. Open the “Money Management” chapter of Settle In and then select the lesson: Planning for Expenses.
  4. Before participants complete the lesson on Settle In, ask them to predict what information they might learn in this lesson. Record the responses.
  5. Work with participants and coach participants on completing the lesson. Have participants complete the actions collectively, in pairs, or individually, either through a shared screen or on a digital device (laptop, tablet, or smartphone). As appropriate, monitor progress and assist participants as needed in navigating the technology.
  6. Compare their predictions with what they actually learned in completing the lesson.

  • Computer or other digital device for using the Settle In app. If using desktop, access to reliable WiFi

  • Based on participants’ digital abilities and digital access, you can have participants complete the chapter and lesson either before class to help generate discussion or after class as a review.
  • The mobile app can work offline once content has been downloaded when connected to WiFi.
  • If additional guidance on using technology during Cultural Orientation is needed, please reference CORE’s How to Integrate Digital Technology document or online course.
  • For more information on Settle In, see CORE’s Refugee Communications Tools.

The Baking System Using Settle In app Activity

This activity is ideal for reviewing rule of law, U.S. laws, and consequences of breaking the law. Use in-person or virtually.

  1. Ask participants: What was banking like in your country/ies of origin and/or protection? How did you keep money safe?
  2. Explain to participants that banks provide various services including checking accounts, savings, loans, and credit cards. Explain that banks are a safe place to keep money.
  3. Ask participants: What questions do you have about banking and bank services in the U.S.? Record responses.
  4. Access Settle In (available in multiple languages) either through the mobile or desktop app.
  5. Open the “Money Management” chapter of Settle In and then select the lesson: The Banking System.
  6. Work with participants and coach participants on completing the lesson. Have participants complete the actions collectively, in pairs, or individually, either through a shared screen or on a digital device (laptop, tablet, or smartphone). As appropriate, monitor progress and assist participants as needed in navigating the technology.
  7. Compare their proposed questions from the beginning of the activity with what they actually learned in completing the lesson. Provide additional information as necessary.

  • Computer or other digital device for using the Settle In app. If using desktop, access to reliable WiFi

  • This activity can be paired with a visit to a local bank and training on using ATM, if appropriate and secure.
  • Based on participants’ digital abilities and digital access, you can have participants complete the chapter and lesson either before class to help generate discussion or after class as a review.
  • The mobile app can work offline once content has been downloaded when connected to WiFi.
  • If additional guidance on using technology during Cultural Orientation is needed, please reference CORE’s How to Integrate Digital Technology document or online course.
  • For more information on Settle In, see CORE’s Refugee Communications Tools.

Taxes Using Settle In app Activity

This activity is ideal for reviewing basic concepts of taxes in the United States. Use in-person or virtually.

  1. Ask participants: Did you have to pay taxes in your country/ies of origin and/or protection? What types of taxes did you pay?
  2. Explain to participants that every working person in the U.S. pays federal income tax, and some residents in some states pay state income taxes. Taxes are taken out of your paycheck by your employer. Explain to participants that there are different types of taxes, like income tax, property taxes, and sales tax.
  3. Access Settle In (available in multiple languages) either through the mobile or desktop app.
  4. Open the “Money Management” chapter of Settle In and then select the lesson: Taxes.
  5. Work with participants and coach participants on completing the lesson. Have participants complete the actions collectively, in pairs, or individually, either through a shared screen or on a digital device (laptop, tablet, or smartphone). As appropriate, monitor progress and assist participants as needed in navigating the technology.
  6. Compare their proposed questions from the beginning of the activity with what they actually learned in completing the lesson. Provide additional information as necessary.

  • Computer or other digital device for using the Settle In app. If using desktop, access to reliable WiFi

  • This activity can be paired with identifying the different taxes and deductions using a sample paycheck.
  • Based on participants’ digital abilities and digital access, you can have participants complete the chapter and lesson either before class to help generate discussion or after class as a review.
  • The mobile app can work offline once content has been downloaded when connected to WiFi.
  • If additional guidance on using technology during Cultural Orientation is needed, please reference CORE’s How to Integrate Digital Technology document or online course.
  • For more information on Settle In, see CORE’s Refugee Communications Tools.