April 12, 2017 Reading Time: 2 minutes

AIER’s Money School is a financial literacy program that supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence. AIER developed a curriculum that helps the survivors gain the knowledge, confidence, and connections to build their financial future. We collaborate with the Elizabeth Freeman Center of Pittsfield, Mass., which administers the program in Pittsfield, Great Barrington, and North Adams, Mass. The objectives of the program are to increase women’s economic competence, improve their confidence in making financial decisions, and connect women to economic resources. The five-week AIER curriculum covers the following topics: setting financial goals, saving for the future, confronting credit and debt, juggling finances, and making money count. Since its inception in 2014, 91 women completed Money School.

In 2017, the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance recognized Money School as an innovative program. I was present at the awards ceremony on Monday, April 3, at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. It was a humbling experience. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey presided over the ceremony, where individuals and institutions were recognized for their work on victim advocacy and assistance. The Innovation Award was presented to the Elizabeth Freeman Center, our Money School partner, in recognition of the school’s groundbreaking work to advance financial independence for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

“Money School puts survivors of abuse or sexual violence on a path toward economic security and well-being,” the award letter says. “The program, developed by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) and EFC, promotes long-term paths to financial independence coupled with short-term budgeting, resource maximization and savings measures. It combines an in-depth workshop series with ongoing, individualized, wraparound supports, advocacy, and resources as participants progress on their plans. It is grounded in robust evaluation and impact measurement by AIER that drives improvement.”

This award recognizes an important aspect of AIER’s educational mission. We continue to fulfill the legacy of our founder Col. E.C. Harwood, who encouraged the institute to educate individuals about economic issues in order to empower them to make sound financial decisions for themselves. Money School is doing exactly that. As the awards letter says, it “provides access to financial literacy, planning, and economic opportunities that truly empowers survivors of domestic and sexual violence to be economically self-sufficient.”


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Natalia Smirnova, PhD

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