App partners with schools to help visualize financial planning

Muskegon makes The Beans available to teachers and students.

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District is partnering with The Beans, a financial company that offers schools and nonprofit organizations across the country a web-based application to create personalized visual financial planning.

The Beans was founded by former teacher and Oxford researcher Melissa Pancoast in 2016. In addition to the app, which maps out spending, savings and priorities based on trends from the individual’s bank account, workshops are offered that Pancoast said are based on the work that she did at the University of Oxford in England.

“All the work is evidence-based and proven to reduce financial stress,” she said. “The workshop introduces basic concepts of financial wellness and principles and the app backs that up with software and technology that builds a really simple financial plan and gives you positive and proactive support to stay on track with it. Our app and workshops are both very visually compelling. Things are animated, and people get to see their money and that is a very different experience than interacting with your money in numbers or on spreadsheets.”

Laura Kwapiszewski is a substitute English Language Arts teacher who teaches 6th through 12th grades in the Muskegon district. In addition to being a teacher, she also is a student, taking online classes to earn her master’s degree at Concordia University Ann Arbor.

She does demos for The Beans, working with local teachers who are earning a similar income to show them how they can delegate their income to improve their savings habits.

“(The Beans) sends us text messages and emails saying, ‘Hey, congratulations, this is how much you have to spend this month or this week,’” she said. “It is very rewarding seeing that. I am very conscious on how I spend (my money) and what I spend it on. I am a hawk when it comes to my credit card. In December, my (credit score) dropped a good 40 points. I was freaking out because it was 40-plus points. I was like, what is going on? I did have my weekly spending go down and I was like, OK, what is going on? As I looked, I saw I spent over the limit on my credit card, but I did pay it off. But because I overspent the limit that they allocated to me, it bumped my (credit score) down, even though I did pay it off so that limited my spending. (The Beans) would tell me that I am free to spend this much, and normally it would be a couple of dollars higher, so it helped me realize that something was wrong.”

“The Beans is helping teachers and others … create a more positive relationship with their finances and a clear, visual road map to navigate their financial lives even more successfully,” said Randy Lindquist at the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. “For professionals who are lifelong learners, The Beans provides a new way of thinking about and interacting with your finances.”

In addition to working with Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, Pancoast has been partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of the Muskegon Lakeshore and the Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance.

According to a recent survey conducted by The Beans, nearly 50% of respondents, most of whom are teachers, health workers or nonprofit workers, have lost some income due to the pandemic.

“Given the right tools, planning and encouragement, we’ve seen that members are able to continue their momentum despite this unprecedented time in history,” Pancoast said. “We’re on a mission to alleviate financial stress for some of the hardest working professions out there, doing work that has never been more urgent than today.”

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