Without financial literacy, you can’t lift yourself from poverty. In order to have financial security and eventual financial independence, knowledge of personal finance basics—managing savings, banking and investment accounts—is mandatory.

Financial literacy can provide so much more, though. Think about this: When you are money savvy, no one can try to control your life by controlling your finances. When your partner controls the money and you don’t have financial knowledge or access to accounts at all except for the “allowance” you are given, how can you walk away if you need to? Not easily.

Women who are trying to escape domestic violence or sex trafficking are often controlled by their oppressors through money. Courtney Giles, YWCA Utah Resident Educator, and Economic Wellness Specialist believes that without financial education, it can be impossible for women to escape their situations and become independent.  

“On average, women return to their abusive situation over seven times before ultimately becoming independent,” Giles said. The YWCA Utah program in Salt Lake City features a course in personal finance to help vulnerable women succeed.

Giles made sure financial education was part of the curriculum for their residential transition to independence program. The program includes a 10-week class that results in a certification in financial literacy throughW!SE (Working in Support of Education).

The program covers budgeting, banking, taxes, paychecks, credit, investing, wills, renting versus buying a home and teaching kids about money. Classes are taught locally by volunteer Certified Financial Planner Professionals via the Utah Financial Planning Association Pro Bono committee. In addition to the classes, one-on-one financial counseling is available through AAA Fair Credit Counseling.

Everyone who wants to become financially independent can learn from these courageous women.   

Here are a few success stories (names have been changed to protect their privacy):

  1. She negotiated her way out of debt.

Saddled with joint debt, Rebecca wasn’t sure how she’d dig herself out. “When the kids and I moved out, he walked away from our apartment and stopped paying rent. He also ran up credit card debt in our joint name and stopped making payments,” she told me. “These actions left me with a pile of debt and an extremely poor credit rating.”

“With a poor credit rating, I can’t get an apartment for my kids and myself. I have no one to co-sign for me,” she said. “So I saved up money and negotiated each and every debt myself. I was able to pay a reduced amount and am on my way to being debt free and repairing my credit rating.”

2. She went from poverty to a job in banking.

Janice, who lived in the YWCA Utah residential housing program, was able to move and start a new life in another state. When she started financial literacy classes, she absorbed all the money knowledge she could.

Janice was so inspired by the class that she felt inclined to help other people in the financial world. She went on to start a career in banking. All this was inspired by the 10-week financial literacy course.  

Read the rest of Nancy L. Anderson’s article at Forbes