Community Bank Tests Out Financial Literacy

New Haven's Start Bank Hopes to Track Financial Success

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Uma Ramiah
Uma Ramiah
Local Bank Runs Loot Camp
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Local Bank Runs Loot Camp

Financial literacy courses are seeing renewed political support since the housing crash. But it's still unclear whether that kind of training has any positive affect on people's habits. As the Connecticut Mirror's Uma Ramiah reports, a community bank in New Haven is working to figure that out.

Lynn Smith is speaking to a group of at risk youth between the ages of 16 and 22 at the New Haven Family Alliance center. She shows a slide with three names: Larry King, Ulysses S. Grant, and MC Hammer.

"They all went bankrupt. MC Hammer -- he went through 30 million dollars in like, 30 days."

This is Loot Camp. That's a four session training course for young adults who often lack basic financial knowledge.

"They have to be prepared for their first job with things that you and I take for granted," says Smith.

Smith is senior vice president at one of two community development banks in Connecticut -- New Haven's Start Community Bank. Start is a full service bank with a mission to improve New Haven's economic landscape. That includes Loot Camp.

But there's still no proof that courses like this are effective. Smith hopes to change that with help from the non-profit Innovations for Poverty Action. The goal is a 12-18 month trial starting next summer, tracking how students fare after Loot Camp with a savings account for beginners.

18 year old Jose Frat said he's already learned how keeping a budget can help.

"If you write down the stuff that you really spend, you could really save a lot of money."

Smith hopes to have an initial, exploratory survey done before the Thanksgiving break.