Cambridge Savings Bank, based in Harvard Square, offers financial literacy courses through its CSBsmart Financial Education Program. (Photo: Wally Gobetz)

Members of African-American church congregations looking for more financial savvy should visit St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopalian Church at 5:30 tonight for a session with Cambridge Savings Bank’s CSBsmart Financial Education Program.

The bank created the program after seeing “alarming results regarding the nation’s financial literacy,” said bank spokesman Tom Halkin, highlighting seven years’ worth of studies starting in 2002 that showed particular cause for alarm in teenagers.

Their median financial literacy score was 48.3 percent, “meaning more than half of the nation’s youth lack competency in financial matters,” he said.

CSBsmart targets teens, seniors citizens, the homeless and the poor, and tests of financial knowledge among high school students before and after taking the program showed a 93 percent increase, on average, in terms of improved financial understanding and awareness, Halkin said.

As a result, the bank has expanded the program, run by 25 bank employees who volunteer their time, into 17 communities in Eastern Massachusetts, he said.

The program familiarizes participants with the basics of budgeting and saving, the importance of maintaining financial stability, credit and fraud protection and easy-to-understand steps that allow anybody to learn how to appropriately manage personal finances, according to bank fact sheets.

“By increasing the scope of CSBsmart, the bank addresses a tremendous marketplace need. In an era in which too many people have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous lenders or pay too much in fees to check-cashing businesses, consumers absolutely must have better understanding of their finances,” said Robert M. Wilson, president and chief executive of the bank.

Cambridge residents who want to take advantage of the free program will find the church hosting more events March 14 and 21 (again for members of African-American church congregations) at 85 Bishop Allen Drive, near Central Square; and the Hildenbrand Family Self-Help Center hosting events April 7 and 20 (for adults and families at the center) at 39 Bishop Allen Drive.

Cambridge Savings Bank has 15 branches in Cambridge, Arlington, Watertown, Belmont, Acton, Bedford, Burlington, Concord, Lexington and Newton Centre and reports $2.2 billion in assets. For information, go to cambridgesavings.com.

This post was written from press releases.