Grant allows free class on obtaining financial independence

Giovanna Chavez (left), a recent psychology graduate, discusses budget with instructor Sylvia Marroquin during a financial literacy class Thursday evening at the public library in Imperial.
Thursday, August 3, 2017

IMPERIAL VALLEY – Giovanna Chavez recently returned to Imperial Valley after graduating with a degree in psychology from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. According to Chavez, a friend saw and informed her about an announcement on Facebook about a free financial literacy program in Imperial. So she signed-up for the class.

Sylvia Marroquin, business manager at St. Mary’s Catholic School in El Centro, has over 25 years of experience in the banking industry ranging from entry-level to branch management responsibilities. 


One thing she has observed over the years was many people have difficulty handling their finances. This gave Marroquin the impetus to teach others about managing their income. 


A grant-funded program by the City of Imperial, through the City of Imperial Public Library, allowed for a one-year financial literacy program with Sylvia Marroquin as instructor. The program is free for the community. Instruction in English is held every first Thursday; and in Spanish, every third Thursday at Imperial Library. The financial literacy program began in September 2016 and ends in August of this year. She hopes for another grant funding cycle. 


Even with advertising on social media, Marroquin expressed disappointment at having only ten students within one year. On her desk were a stack of unused materials she prepared for many more attendees. 


Tonight, she provided one-on-one instruction to Chavez. According to Marroquin, the financial literacy outline consists of three parts: 1) “Bank On It” —which talks about establishing a bank account, savings, services, and fees; 2) “Money Matters” —which covers how to create a budget based on income and expenses; and 3) “Pay Yourself First” —which teaches students how to save money and plan for retirement. Each topic has its own syllabus and sets of theoretical exercises.


Chavez said, “I’m going to handle my finances myself instead of my parents.” This was her ultimate goal. For now, the new college graduate receives financial assistance from her parents in Mexico. That is, at least, until she gets a regular job. Meanwhile, she continues to update and send out her resumes hoping to work in human resources. Through scholarships and with the help of her parents, she was able to graduate without student loans. That is one less item to include in her budget. 


Chavez said “I wanted to have a better knowledge of American finances because I am from Mexico.” 


According to Marroquin, the most pressing financial issue that arose among her students was “expenses were greater than their income.” She said, “They’re spending on unnecessary material items that are not needed. You have some people that need to find a high paying job in order to keep up with their level of expenses.” 


Individuals get into financial trouble when a large percentage of their earnings is spent on a house mortgage or renting an apartment. Some may spend more on clothing or on things that become a necessity such as a cell phone. As a result, these expenses consume more of their income with little left to spend on other necessities such as utilities, gas, and electricity. 


To create a budget, Marroquin said, she uses hypothetical daily living expenses based on her students’ income. This can be difficult if the person is earning a minimum wage or works part-time jobs. 


“It really has inspired me to brainstorm with them to try to come up with solutions to their financial situations, at least, to get them on the right track so that they can start setting short and long-term goals,” Marroquin said.