Show me the money!
Show me the money!
University of Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK - We all have to deal with money, whether it’s buying gas and groceries, paying off debt or saving for retirement. Economic uncertainty these days, though, leaves many Arkansans feeling like they barely have two nickels to rub together.
Plotting a course to financial stability can be tricky, but the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is trying to make it easier.
The Division developed several money management programs and materials to help Arkansans achieve their financial goals, manage debt and save for the future. The new kid on the block is Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds.
"Research tells us money is a link to marriage satisfaction or dissatisfaction," says Laura Connerly, extension family resource management instructor. "Financial issues are a leading cause of marriage conflict. We’re hopeful that, with Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds, we can help couples start down the right track with money management."
Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds is an educational series designed to help couples gain money management skills, learn compassionate communication and increase financial security. The series features activities to help couples practice communication, set goals, design a budget, and other money management tools. Newlyweds can enroll through the extension Web site, or through their county extension office.
"We put together gift bags the couple receives when they enroll in the program," Connerly says. "The gift bag includes Financial Smart Start for Newlyweds fact sheets, extension’s Marriage Garden materials, a household account book and an expense workbook." Connerly also says newlyweds receive an invitation to sign up for monthly newsletters.
"The newsletters contain the latest information on saving, spending, record keeping, credit, insurance and other topics," she says.
County agents began ordering materials from Connerly in early August and one county agent has already found a creative use for them.
"I stopped by the county courthouse one day and showed all the materials to the county clerk. She immediately told me that, if I would provide her with the materials, she would distribute them to couples completing their marriage licenses," says Terrie Treadway, Lafayette County family and consumer sciences extension agent. "My office put together 20 gift bags right away for the clerk and gave her 10 more to keep in storage." Treadway says the clerk’s office has already given away almost half of the bags.
"The office staff told me the couples have been very thankful for the gift bags and materials," Treadway says.
Newlyweds aren’t the only people needing money management advice, though. Money management is a learned skill; we aren’t born knowing how to wisely spend and save. Teaching children how to manage money isn’t easy, but the Division provides activities that help families learn about money management together so children learn how to manage money at an early age.
Lafayette County is trying to reach kids at an early age with financial education. Treadway is part of a grant team conducting the Shifting Financial Attitudes program for nine to 12-year-olds. The program teaches how to write a check, balance a checkbook and start a youth business. Local banks discuss online banking and being responsible with credit.
Get Real-Here’s the Deal is another program aimed at students. It’s a hands-on experience giving junior high and high school students the opportunity to experience financial decision-making.
"In addition to money management basics, students learn how education affects occupational opportunities, and how occupation and family matters affect lifestyle," says Robbie McKinnon, Pike County family and consumer sciences extension agent.
LaVetta Davis, Hempstead County family and consumer sciences extension agent, says the students are encouraged to make wise financial choices similar to those adults face each month.
"Topics of educational stations include child care, transportation, entertainment and protecting assets," says Davis.
When economic times are tough, people look for resources to show them how they can save as well as spend.
"Arkansas Saves is supported by the America Saves campaign and is about helping Arkansans make a commitment towards building a wealthier future," says Connerly. "The program is about helping people take financial action and saving money that can go towards a new home, a new car or early retirement."
Arkansas Saves teaches how to change spending and saving habits so that debt can be paid down and gain true financial freedom. This is a free program and the only obligation is to set a savings goal and work towards achieving it.
"When participants enroll in Arkansas Saves, they receive tips on saving, newsletters and other resources to help make saving a habit," Connerly says. "There’s a great resource on the extension Web site called PowerPay and it features various calculators to help savers design their best money management plan."
There are times, though, when all the planning and good intentions go awry and someone must declare bankruptcy.
"There were 10,748 total non-business bankruptcy filings in Arkansas for 2007," Connerly says.
Under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, those filing for Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy must complete a financial management education course. The Division’s Navigating the Financial Journey is approved by the United States Bankruptcy Trustee as certified financial management education for Arkansas bankruptcy filers.
"Navigating the Financial Journey provides the basics of financial management including budget development, money management, wise use of credit and consumer fraud protection," says Connerly.
Research shows that worksite financial management education programs actually improve worker productivity so the Division created a money management educational display that can go to the people, rather than the people coming to the exhibit.
"Money Talks is a worksite financial management activity addressing a variety of topics," Connerly says. Topics covered include credit, spending and saving. Participants respond to questions about the 10 exhibits, completing a worksheet as they go. They can then take with them companion factsheets that provide more in-depth information about the exhibit topics.
Money management resources also exist to help Arkansans stretch their food dollar. With careful planning, the grocery dollar can stretch further than most think is possible, and still buy food that tastes good and is healthy. These tips include avoid buying convenience foods, and buying low-cost foods that will give more bang for the buck.
Money may not grow on trees, but with proper planning, saving and spending, Arkansans may just feel they have more than a penny to their name.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
Primary Press Contact
The Consumer Federation of America
Attn: America Saves Campaign
1620 Eye St NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
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Kojuan Almond from the SSA on America Saves