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The Meaning of Money for American Indian and Latino Families

By Jennifer Garbow, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

Many American Indian families call the Northwest Region of Minnesota home. These families have their own cultural values and norms regarding money management and personal finance. The majority of mainstream financial education tends to focus on an individual’s advancement and does not consider the extended family and community as the individual’s financial responsibility.

Within the American Indian community, however, success is often measured by one’s ability to contribute to the well-being of others. Recognizing the connection with others, American Indians (as a whole) emphasize sharing material possessions, which includes money. This difference in focus poses a unique challenge to educators working with American Indian families, as well as families from other non-dominant cultures.

In response to this challenge, Extension educators Becky Hagen Jokela, Antonio Alba Meraz, and I have partnered with Sharon Danes, Ph.D. in Family Social Science. As a team, we first began to explore how American Indian and Latino families define their own family systems (or households) and values around resource management. It became evident that we need to have a narrower and deeper focus when we develop new teaching materials and tools for the diverse families in our state. As Sharon Danes, Ph.D., family resource management specialist, Becky Hagen Jokela, Extension educator — Family Resiliency, and I wrote in a presentation to the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education in 2014, “If financial management education or counseling is to be effective across cultures, cultural nuances need to be studied, understood, and incorporated into training professionals and into tools and materials that are used while working with various cultures.”

The team is currently planning a second revision of “Unit 1 — Connecting Culture and Financial Resources” in the Dollar Works 2 curriculum. Our goal for Unit 1 is to have a tool that we can use to teach educators and service providers how culture influences behavior and financial decision making within diverse families.

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