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Jim Wasserman

MOST EVERYONE AGREES financial literacy should be taught to some degree in schools. Even the basics, like how to set up a bank or credit card account, or how to make a budget and avoid debt, should be explained to those soon to enter the workforce.

Another group of newcomers to the U.S. financial system who could use guidance are immigrants, particularly refugees. Jiab and I have been volunteering for a number of years to help refugees get acclimated to American life. We’ve learned how much “common knowledge” is actually not so common in many parts of the world. We once had to explain to a family from Myanmar that, if they put uncovered raw chicken in the freezer, it would end up with freezer burn.

The same is true for financial basics. Many refugees have never opened a bank account, let alone had a credit card or read a financial statement. Imagine how helpful it would be to them if someone like you, who’s familiar with the system, helped guide them through the basics.

To do so, you don’t need to be a financial expert, just someone who’s experienced in avoiding potholes on the road to success. There are many organizations that provide immigrant and refugee services, including introductory financial guidance. In Dallas, we have Refugee Services of Texas, which is currently processing many Afghan refugees, and Jewish Family Service, which isn’t limited to any one faith. There are also organizations and groups that serve low income and undereducated people in general that could use support and donations. I’d encourage you to check out homeless shelters, women’s shelters, community centers and public libraries to see what financial education services they offer—and whether you can help.

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