The Samfund Expands Its Scope With Financial Literacy Initiatives, Says Samantha Watson

The Samfund is primarily known for its grant funding programs that help young adults with financial struggles after having cancer, but founder and CEO Samantha Watson discussed how the organization has expanded into providing financial literacy education and other tools to support the community of cancer patients.
Published Online: May 02, 2017


The Samfund is primarily known for its grant funding programs that help young adults struggling financially after having cancer, but founder and CEO Samantha Watson discussed how the organization has expanded into providing financial literacy education and other tools to support the community of cancer patients.

Transcript (slightly modified)
What are some of The Samfund’s initiatives to support young adults who are struggling financially due to cancer?
At the Samfund, our biggest program has always been a grants program. We’ve awarded just over $1.7 million in grants over the last decade. A lot of what we fund is basic everyday stuff, so we provide some help with medical bills and copays and things like that, but we also help with rent and mortgage. We help with insurance premiums, and we help with car payments, and we help with anything that becomes a hardship because someone has gone through cancer at a young age.

But we also now in the last couple of years have started to focus on financial education, on encouraging some of these conversations, on helping to improve communication around finances. So we just actually launched a new program called Finances 101: A Toolkit for Young Adults with Cancer, and it’s really an online decision making guide.

The first topic that we covered, right at the time when open enrollment started, was around choosing a health insurance plan, because what we see in our grants program, for example, is that young adults are on their own for insurance for the first time. The marketplace is confusing, and they only have enough, they think, to cover the cheapest monthly plan. So they get the cheapest monthly plan and then they can’t see their doctors because the plan doesn’t cover them, or they’re going bankrupt because their deductible was way higher than they realized.

We created this guide to help them figure out how to calculate the full cost of insurance for the year, how to compare plans, what their options are, when their marketplace opens, how to navigate the site, and it’s really meant not to give directive advice about which plan they should pick, but to put them back in the driver’s seat when it comes to being informed and picking the best plan for them.

From there, we’re going to build out to other topics and really explore this world of financial education and financial literacy, because we think, our hunch after the thousands upon thousands of applications that we’ve read over the years, that a lot of these financial crises can be prevented if people have better information and guidance along the way, and especially at those critical decision making points. If they’re armed with information, then hopefully they won’t panic, and hopefully they won’t make a decision that’s going to affect them negatively in the long run.

It also opens up the community that we’re able to support, because for years we’ve focused on young adults once they’re finished with treatment. For the toolkit and for our webinar series which also provides a similar type of guidance and support, we don’t care how old someone is if they access it. We don’t care what their treatment status is. We don’t have to care about any of that. We can put the information out and hope that it’s helpful. It really also, again, opens up the type of support that we provide and the size of the community that we’re able to support. 


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