The Issue: How to offer an engaging first personal finance education class that appeals to students and partner organizations. Also, how to help attendees understand their underlying financial habits and attitudes.
Who: Lindsay Ferguson is the Real$ense Prosperity Campaign program and services coordinator. Real$ense, an asset building coalition, is the Income Initiative of United Way of Northeast Florida.
What: As part of the asset building program, the United Way offers community financial education classes, free tax prep, and matched-savings Individual Development Accounts. Money Habitudes is used in its financial education efforts.
- The United Way offers free personal finance education classes. One type is community financial education classes, which are open to the public. The second is workplace financial education classes, held on-site at employer locations.
- The personal finance education classes tend to be offered as a set of three or four workshops, held on different days.
- The Money Habitudes class usually serves as a “plug-in” that serves as an introductory first class. It comes before teaching other financial curricula. The United Way may follow the first Money Habitudes class with other classes that cover budgeting, banking, credit, investing, etc.
- The Money Habitudes activity fulfills two important needs. First, it is fun, non-threatening and, therefore, an easy sell to organizations looking to bring personal finance education to their employees. Second, it puts attendees at ease when they talk about money and paves the way for later financial skills lessons. These later lessons then are more relevant and engaging. “Money Habitudes can be a major a-ha moment,” says Ferguson.
- Classes usually last 1-1.5 hours. There are usually 10-15 attendees. The Money Habitudes money personality activity and group discussion occupy the whole time.
- After sorting their cards, facilitators might ask people to share their top Money Habitudes types and note that on a white board. Then the facilitator will read the yellow interpretation cards and talk about general differences between the money personality types. A last step in a class may be on setting financial goals.
- The United Way teaches from FDIC’s more basic Money Smart financial curriculum for its community classes. For its workplace financial education classes, the financial curriculum of choice is Financially Fit, designed by the University of Florida IFAS Extension office.
- The United Way has focused its workplace financial education classes on non-profits for two reasons. First, non-profit organizations are often overlooked as the employers of many low-wage workers. Second, educating non-profit workers can have a magnifier effect and get financial information to those with whom they interact while working for the non-profit. Participants in these financial education classes may also request one-on-one financial counseling or financial coaching.
- Workplace financial education classes are often presented in a lunch-and-learn format. While a meal may not always be provided, the classes still strive for a more fun and participatory feel. Typical personal finance education classes tend to be based on financial lectures and a budget worksheet.
- Classes are taught by volunteer financial educators who go through special training on the materials. “The volunteers really love using the Money Habitudes cards. They’re fun and easy and they just kind of work!” says Ferguson.
- Doing a pre and post evaluation survey for the classes, the United Way found statistically significant improvement on 8 measures. These included:
- The percentage of respondents that paid all of their bills on time increased from 22% to 32%.
- Those who had a written budget increased from 27% to 56%.
- Those with a checking account increased from 45% to 69%.
- “It’s a good foundation for participants to have because we generally want to offer three or more workshops together. Money Habitudes gets people talking about money in a positive way. Then you can get to the nitty-gritty with classes on budgeting or credit or whatever. It’s a soft sell in the beginning to get in the door.”
- “Money Habitudes is great way to start money conversations. And because we’re largely in employer-based settings, people are sitting with their peers where it can be especially difficult to talk and share about savings and credit so the cards make the material feel less intrusive. It’s fun, gets the money conversation going, and gets people to feel more comfortable. So when we go back in with the next class and talk about investing or another topic, people already feel comfortable talking about money.”