Creating Economic Opportunity through Financial Education and Individual Development Accounts

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Abilene Reporter News (Texas)

By: Terry E. Johnson

December 23, 2009


A wise man once said, "The greatest thing you can do for a person is not share your riches with him, but reveal him to his own".

These words of wisdom have become the philosophy behind the work we do through the New Seed Initiative. As a newly established organization focused on community and economic development, our mission is to grow people into financial success and raise the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders. We do this through community based financial education and the creation of funding pools to support Individual Development Accounts (IDAs).


These accounts help low and moderate income families to increase levels of financial literacy, build personal savings, and invest in asset ownership. IDAs reward the monthly savings of account holders who are working toward first time home ownership, college education, or small business ownership. A match incentive (similar to employer matched for 401(k) programs) is provided to leverage the account holder's savings and encourage monthly deposits. Though many communities use various levels of match incentives, the New Seed Initiative creates a funding pool to support a 3:1 match for account holders. In other words, anyone awarded an IDA through a New Seed Initiative supported program receives a $3 match for every $1 saved (up to $1,000 in personal savings). This savings and match process results in $4,000 to be invested in asset ownership.


Though the 3:1 match incentive is very attractive for an account holder, we believe that financial education is where the true value lies. All account holders are required to complete Money Power University, a series of comprehensive financial education classes that are designed to help people live out a principle called P-I-G-S. The acronym stands for Pay yourself first, Invest in assets (home ownership, small business, or college education), Give to help others, and Spend wisely. Our philosophy is that those who remain true to the P-I-G-S principle will be able to increase levels of asset ownership and achieve higher levels of financial success for the rest of their lives. This educational process has the power to change entire family systems.


This work involves many collaborative partners who are essential to the success of this approach to community and economic development. First Financial Bank has been a supporter of this concept for the past five years by holding IDAs and supporting financial education efforts through the local Community Action Program. The Dodge Jones Foundation and United Way of Abilene have worked together to create the West Central Texas Center for Economic Opportunity as a community financial resource center offering no-fee income tax assistance and Money Power University. Central Texas Opportunities (Brownwood, TX) and Concho Valley Community Action Agency (San Angelo, TX) have also become partners to promote financial education and IDAs. Other partners and supporters have included Texas Tech University Small Business Development Center, Texas State Technical College, Cisco College, and Abilene Board of Realtors.


Over 200 low and moderate income families have received financial education and purchased an asset in our community over the past five years and it has become our mission to bring this opportunity to full scale by building stronger collaborative partnerships to create even more community and economic impact. Our vision is to bring large employers, churches, financial institutions, foundations, and private donors together to make financial education and asset ownership even more accessible for families on this socioeconomic level. Community partnership focused on this effort will create lasting change and foster a sense of prosperity throughout our local neighborhoods. We encourage you to contact us to see how you can support our mission and make the American Dream a reality for all families. Adding value to local families through our community and economic development model creates value for our local economy.


Terry E. Johnson is the Founder & President of the  New Seed Initiative


(325) 672-6715 (Office)


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