Empowering Communities: Financial Literacy Initiatives

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East West Lifestyle

Empowering Communities: Financial Literacy Initiatives

April 26, 2024
A team indoors, grouped to discuss the problem

(Photo by MOAimage via Getty Images)

The faces of the American dream are as diverse and complex as the barriers on the path to it. For economically marginalized communities, that journey forward can still feel out of reach.

One key to helping communities reach further is to broaden access to resources and capital and increase financial education, because financial knowledge builds economic power. When people are better informed about their finances, they make better financial decisions.

For the past 50 years, East West Bank has forged partnerships with nonprofit organizations across the nation. Together, we have implemented financial literacy programs in classrooms, supported adults in overcoming poverty, and provided aspiring  entrepreneurs with the skills they need to secure economic stability and achieve success. 

Each of these partners shares East West’s commitment to strengthen their communities, ensuring that resources are delivered to those who are underserved. These collaborative efforts aim to pave the way for upward mobility among individuals and communities.


Since 2018 East West community development partner Kaimore has been a vital financial ally for thousands of economically underserved families and individuals in Los Angeles.

Kaimore (“Kai” means “open” in Chinese) provides financial tools and workforce training to empower underrepresented individuals, helping them avoid the traps of crime, homelessness and poverty. The LA-based nonprofit offers four programs covering financial literacy, workforce development, entrepreneurship, housing and homeownership. These initiatives support single mothers, homeless families, the formerly incarcerated and transition-age youth, equipping them with the skills necessary for financial success, housing stability and independent living.

“Our mission is to build a strong foundation for all underserved communities and address the root causes of poverty,” Kaimore executive director Joyce Lam said. “So much change still needs to happen before we can achieve equal opportunity and class mobility, especially for those communities who have historically been marginalized. We believe as strongly that every person has the power to influence their own lives with proper opportunities.”

April is Financial Literacy Month, and Kaimore’s calendar is filled with free tax preparation seminars and financial literacy sessions.

East West Bank volunteers partner with Kaimore to provide free tax preparation services in April for Financial Literacy Month

East West Bank volunteers partner with Kaimore to provide free tax preparation services in April for Financial Literacy Month

These sessions, co-led by East West Bank volunteers, include free Earned Income Tax Credit and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tax preparation programs to assist qualified low- and moderate-income families with refund filing so that they can keep more of the money they earn.

“Low-income and at-risk individuals often face financial challenges such as limited income, high levels of debt and limited access to financial services,” Lam said. “Learning about personal finance, wealth building and free tax preparation can help them make informed financial decisions, avoid financial pitfalls and achieve greater financial stability.”

According to Lam, many folks who can’t get traditional jobs end up building their own business and becoming entrepreneurs. Kaimore supports these next-generation small business owners through entrepreneurship programs such as their Shaved Ice Booth Entrepreneurship Program. It offers transition-aged youth hands-on work experience running a shaved iced booth at a local farmer’s market to help them enhance their entrepreneurial skills and learn the intricacies of running a business (budgeting, tracking expenses, calculating profits, collaboration, etc.).

“This program was very valuable because it helped me understand what I would need to run my own business,” said program member Rae. “Having this experience sets me apart from other friends who want to start businesses. I feel like I have a bigger step ahead to do that.”

Kaimore’s grassroots commitment is reflected in its volunteer board, most of whom are women. While the founding board members are first-generation Chinese Americans, the board has grown and increased in diversity to reflect the needs of the community Kaimore serves.

“For the majority of us, our families didn’t come to America with much,” Lam said. “At Kaimore we believe that with the right resources and guidance anyone can succeed. That’s the American dream.”

Financial Beginnings

You’re never too young to learn your financial ABC’s. Through our in-classroom partnership with Financial Beginnings, East West is helping children understand the importance of establishing responsible financial habits and making informed money management decisions.

East West Bank, Financial Beginnings teach students how to spend wisely

East West Bank, Financial Beginnings teach students how to spend wisely

Financial Beginnings is a national nonprofit financial literacy education organization that East West has teamed up with in classrooms across Southern California—including Roy Romer Middle School, A Place Called Home and Victoria Avenue Elementary—to educate students on how to manage money.

Students learn foundational financial and life skills to empower them with the tools and knowledge they need to establish healthy financial habits, take control of their financial futures, and put themselves on a pathway to success.

Recently, Financial Beginnings and East West volunteers sat down with Roy Romer Middle School students in Los Angeles County for a lesson on the importance of managing their money and spending it wisely. Students learned the difference between a debit and credit card, practiced how to write a check and how to open a bank account—financial knowledge they can take back to their families to incorporate into their everyday lives.

Junior Achievement

Unleashing the boundless potential of young entrepreneurs goes beyond teaching them the basics of sound financial management. The path to economic stability, upward mobility and business success for the next generation of inventors and innovators requires a combination of perspiration and inspiration.

Equally important as equipping tomorrow’s leaders with the financial tools and knowledge they need to succeed—resources far-too-scarce in underserved and underbanked low- to moderate-income communities—is inspiring them with the confidence to believe in themselves.

Utilizing in-person and virtual classes, East West has partnered with Junior Achievement (JA) chapters across the United States—in California, New York, Texas, Georgia and Washington—to teach minority youths the skills, knowledge, capacity and motivation to build a better future for themselves and their community.

East West Bank volunteer teaches JA financial literacy workshop for Title 1 8th graders

East West Bank volunteer teaches JA financial literacy workshop for Title 1 8th graders

A recent Junior Achievement event in Southern California demonstrates the impact this combination of education and inspiration can have. At Junior Achievement’s headquarters in Burbank, 38 of our retail banking associates volunteered at JA Finance Park—a dynamic platform for real-life financial simulations—to teach over 200 8th grade students from surrounding Title 1 middle schools. Through group discussions, students gained a fresh perspective on finance, budgeting, savings accounts, loans, credit cards, debt management and interest rates to become more savvy financial decision-makers.

East West Bank volunteers present a donation to JA Southeast Texas to support entrepreneurship education initiatives

East West Bank volunteers present a donation to JA Southeast Texas to support entrepreneurship education initiatives

Through our partnership with Junior Achievement’s multiple chapters, East West Bank provides financial resources and in-classroom mentorship for middle- and high-school students, delivering messages of empowerment, innovation and responsibility, and inspiring them to reach further.