For eighteen years as of February 12, 2022, Adult Life Training, Inc. has worked to abate the causes of poverty in our community. Money is actually NOT the problem: the problem is mindset.
To help people cross the socioeconomic bridge out of poverty requires a change in behavior, which can only come from a change in perspective, which can only come from personal experience and reflection that results in a personal decision to improve. Inertia is strong in humans: we try to stay in our comfort zone, where we are familiar with how life works, even if life is not good – we are risk adverse. We are miserable in poverty but it’s OUR poverty and we know what to expect. If we start rocking the boat we don’t know what will happen.
Adult Life Training, Inc.’s work has been almost exclusively with seniors, which, frankly, I feel is the “low hanging fruit”: seniors are actually willing to listen, if for no other reason than obtaining some pleasant distraction or casual entertainment, while most teenage people are instinctively programmed to blindly push ahead on whatever course their peers promote as popular, which is controlled by various kinds of advertising. Of course we were young once, and most of us did the same thing. Seniors have some influence on their youngers, and youngers tend to glamorize their grandparent’s fashions and culture: grandparents are a key to helping teens.
An important step is to teach children young enough that they still listen. By training them up appropriately they learn to prosper by their own work, to budget, to pay cash and refuse to let anyone coerce them into accepting any kind of debt. Young children are extremely influenced by advertising – my three year old grandson currently speaks with a British accent because he watches Peppa (pepper) Pig (pronounced pep- ahh peeeg): the video speaks with a British accent, so he emulates.
It is very important that this financial literacy training starts early because children are already targeted to become lifetime debtors instead of freemen in their toys (Shopping Barbie, etc.) and school (corporate sponsorships) to accept credit card debt and later they will be told the only financial aide they can have for college is student loans. They need to be taught early on to reject this dogma and to know their healthy alternatives.
One healthy learning example is that instead of providing an “allowance” use a list of age-appropriate jobs that they can do, for which they will be paid IF and AS OFTEN AS they do them. This teaches them that the way to get money is to earn it by working, that they can earn money, and that they will like having money to spend. It also teaches them that they can earn as much or as little as they wish – their income depends upon their personal choices, not some magical outside force beyond their control. Kids can control very little, and helping them take control of their own income is a huge life skill lesson for them, and one that adults in poverty did not learn from their parents.
Debt harms our communities and I feel that debt advertising is more destructive than smoking and drugs combined. We need to counter the massive financial services marketing juggernaut ($17 Billion as of year 2013 https://www.consumerfinance.gov/. See the report at https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201311_cfpb_navigating-the-market-final.pdf) that is targeting young people purposed to trap them in debt forever.
In recent years people have increased their on-line activity, and Search Engines control what information we can find on-line. The “Financial Services” $15.69 billion digital spend alone is expected to reach $18.25 billion in 2020, overtaking automotive to claim the number two ranking in terms of overall ad spend. (https://mindstreammediagroup.com/2020-trends-in-financial-services-marketing/). Almost $8 Billion of that is to control the results returned by Search Engines.
Consider that again: the group most trusted by people to treat their very private data with integrity is actually exploiting that very private data for financial gain.
But financial services debt marketing does not end with simple advertising. It involves collecting and using very private personal financial information to manipulate people into ever deeper debt. Again from Mind Stream Media Group, “Sixty-five percent of financial marketers say that while they do use their institution’s data to discuss, educate and cross-sell customers, they don’t use it as often as they should or would like to.” (https://thefinancialbrand.com/wp-content/uploads/reports/State-of-the-Financial-Marketer.pdf) Consider that again: the group most trusted by people to treat their very private data with integrity is actually exploiting that very private data for financial gain. Not surprising, but very disturbing.
The debt industry marketing has been very effective: debt is no longer a critical problem, it is now an existential crisis. Something on the order of 80% of Americans cannot afford to miss one paycheck or social support payment. The average American has $90,460 in personal debt, according to a 2021 CNBC report. That included all types of consumer debt products, from credit cards to personal loans, mortgages and student debt. (https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/demographics/) That is on top of the $88,346.46 share of the US National Debt for each of the 332,401,414 persons living in the US. The U.S. Treasury’s official figure for the debt of the federal government is $29 trillion—or more precisely—$29,366,487,278,631.21 as of Dec 24, 2021. [US Treasury Department, “Debt to the Penny”] This is relevant because the affects of National Debt encroach on Individual Quality of Life in many ways, some immediately and others grow over time.
As detailed in publications of the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Brookings Institution, and Princeton University Press, the following are some ways in which large government debts can affect people:
- Reduced “living standards” and “wages”     
- “Reductions in spending” on government programs
- “Higher marginal tax rates” that “discourage work and saving” and reduce economic output
- “Higher inflation” that increases “the size of future budget deficits” and decreases the “the purchasing power” of citizens’ savings and income  
- Restricted “ability of policymakers to use fiscal policy to respond to unexpected challenges, such as economic downturns or international crises”
- “Losses for mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, banks, and other holders of federal debt”
- Increased “probability of a fiscal crisis in which investors would lose confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget, and the government would be forced to pay much more to borrow money” 
* Because association does not prove causation, and because numerous factors can affect economic outcomes, there is frequently no objective way to isolate and quantify the effects of a single factor like government debt.   
The combination of massive debt – National and Individual – is a problem that must get fixed. National Debt is facilitated through the political process and since all of us are affected then all of us should be involved.
The best slaves are those who do not know they are slaves: we need to stop cooperating with the slavers: we need to create a cultural shift so people get off the debt plantation.
Individual Debt is facilitated by marketing and coercion: mostly targeting young people: teens and college age young adults. I feel that targeting debt promotions at, or selling debt to, persons under the age of 24 needs to be a felony with mandatory prison time. But until the corruption is removed from our governments our only effective countermeasure to the massive financial services debt marketing is to educate people to reject such targeting. The best slaves are those who do not know they are slaves: we need to stop cooperating with the slavers: we need to create a cultural shift so people get off the debt plantation. As Malcom X would say, “don’t listen to the house negro”.
Financial Literacy is one of three areas in which we focus our senior training. The other areas are Computer Job Skills and Business Literacy. Financial Literacy training uses purchased curriculum from the Dave Ramsey organization (Lampo Licensing, LLC) which covers having an emergency fund to avoid debt, budgeting existing income so that all needs are met every month, rapidly paying off all debts, and learning to live as a self sustaining productive member of our community. The Financial Literacy curricula lends itself to virtual learning, and we have been buying site licenses to overcome barriers to entry ($130 per family curriculum charge) by providing the training free to any who desire to improve themselves. We have also worked with other local organizations, and with some international families, to share the curriculum and train their staff in using it effectively.
While debt is not the only problem degrading quality of life in our community, it is a major problem. We have used Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University as a pre-packaged and easily delivered tool to fight the root causes of poverty with information to provide awareness and cultural change. Training our seniors is key to training our teens and young adults, and training our teens is crucial to having the next generation of adults make prudent financial decisions for their families and for our nation.
What you can do
As an individual or organizational member there are some things that you can do to improve your own quality of life now and help your community have a better quality of life now and in the future.
Uno. First, if you are not already debt free then get yourself free and stay free. If you are not already budgeting every month and investing, start. If you are unsure how to do these three things add yourself to our site license and either do the Ramsey curriculum yourself with the provided videos and workbooks, or join one of the classes you’ll see after you have entered the site license. It’s free: paid in advance by a generous grant from the 3Rivers Federal Credit Union Foundation.
Dos. After you are financially secure (or diligently working to become financially secure) begin helping those around you.
Tres. Work to change your organization’s thinking on debt, and help receptive people around you learn what you have learned. Join the resistance to curtail the massive debt industry marketing machine.
Cuatro. Finally support like minded people and organizations so they stay debt free – the debt mongers will not quit so we can’t relax either. If you would like to help Adult Life Training, Inc. we need volunteers and donations. A few dollars in our PayPal will actually help. If a million people each gave $2 we’d have $2 million (less about a 60 cent PayPal fee each) to operate.