Family Economic Mobility Toolkit

Connecting Values and Culture to FEM

Conversations and decisions around family economic mobility topics, including ways of asking and answering questions, are often influenced by cultural norms and values that may differ from family to family. For example, families may have different ideas about who they should discuss their finances with. Some families may be hesitant about discussing money and finances at all. We want to honor these expectations by following the family’s lead. You might explain that the program values all families and wants to respect each family’s preferences for how to partner together. Most importantly, we want to communicate that our interest is in supporting them and their children, and that we are committed to their success.

We also want to remember that each family is unique and may have a different perspective based on their past experiences, culture, place of origin, child-rearing practices, and family priorities. The meaning of gender roles may vary from family to family as well. In approaching family economic mobility discussions, it is vital to respect and learn about families' values and culture.

How to Keep Values and Culture in Mind

Keep the ideas below in mind as you approach family economic mobility discussions, while respecting and learning about families' values and culture. Consider these ideas as you work with individual families. Make adjustments to fit each family’s situation.

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1. Listen for the values, needs, and feelings behind financial decisions.

Start by hearing and restating the family’s values and goals as a context for further discussion. Conversation starters might sound like:

  • “It sounds like selling your car was the best decision for your family at the time. What might we think about together today that will lead to the best decision for your family in this moment?”
  • “You mentioned you are hoping to enroll in school at night while working during the day. It sounds like you really value your education. What is motivating you to go to school?”

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2. Ask questions to understand decisions.

Open-ended questions allow the family to share details about their values, feelings, and culture that relate to their financial decisions and goals. Questions aimed at understanding might look like:

  • “I love hearing about the dreams you have for your children. What inspires you to strive for those things?”
  • “Thank you for sharing about your goals with me. Can you tell me more about why these things are important to you?”

3. Be aware of your own values and experiences that shape your approach to family economic mobility work.

A tool like Your Money, Your Goal’s Financial Empowerment Self-assessment allows staff to consider their own feelings, knowledge, and values associated with financial topics. This tool is designed to help you better understand your own financial knowledge, skills, and overall confidence. Consider taking the assessment to support your own journey toward feeling comfortable supporting families with family economic mobility goals..

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Recognize implicit biases and harmful narratives.

In some families, it is common for one family member to manage the finances for the whole family. However, when engaging with families on family economic mobility topics, learn to recognize signs of financial abuse in the form of coercive, controlling, or manipulative behaviors. Learn more about domestic violence and financial abuse.

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Learn More with These Resources