Save It, Kids.

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 19, 2010

When’s the last time you heard a teenager talk about his small business and the people he employed. Perhaps…never?

It happened to me just recently. In fact, I listened to two teenagers talk about the difference savings and financial education had made in their lives.

One spoke of his lawn care business and his five employees. He wrote the business plan, saved for the expenses and still managed to pay for college. The other, a high school student from Connecticut, saved for three CDs – as in Certificates of Deposit.

The kids today may have a hipper way to describe it, but I’d say that’s pretty cool.

It’s even more impressive when you consider that these teens are foster children – a demographic group that typically leaves the foster care system at 18 with zero savings, few prospects and a daunting future.

You might be wondering how they managed to do this. Simply put, they seized the opportunity.

For almost twenty years now, the Levi Strauss Foundation has been at the forefront in helping low-income families save, start businesses, pursue higher education and build a brighter economic future for their families – in the United States, and now, around the world.

In 1996, the Levi Strauss Foundation became the first corporate foundation to invest in the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s American Dream Demonstration, which provided financial education and matched savings for more than 2,300 low-income people in 14 communities across the United States.

Because of this program, more than half of the participating families were able to save money –go to college, start businesses, buy homes and save for retirement.  Participants saved – not because it was easy – but because, as they told us, saving held the promise of greater stability and hope.

The two teens I mentioned above were given an opportunity to change their lives by taking the right financial steps, and with incentives, saved their money and didn’t look back. It took hard work and serious sacrifices. When their friends were out shopping, they were working and saving their money.

Asset-building programs similar to the ones supported by the Levi Strauss Foundation helped the teens I met last week get some financial footing in an otherwise unstable playing field.

The more teens like them we reach, the better off we’ll all be.

Interested in helping? Learn more here.


Bob Friedman founded the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) in 1979 and continues as CFED’s Chair of the Board and General Counsel. He is a former board member of Levi Strauss & Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation.