According to a 2014 study conducted by the Connecticut Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, only 10% of Connecticut high school students participated in a personal finance class annually. Fewer than 20 high schools required students to take a personal finance course prior to graduation. According to the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015 by the Federal Reserve System, “Forty-six percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.” Young people need opportunities to learn about money and practice those skills to prepare for their financial futures.
Every 4-Her has the opportunity to learn about finances through their projects and activities. As a member of a local 4-H Club, they are likely to pay dues to cover the cost of their various activities. This fee (usually a dollar or two) may be used to pay for snacks, a club t-shirt, jacket, or supplies. Most clubs have officers including a treasurer who will record these funds under the supervision of an adult leader. In addition to learning about the financial aspects of their specific project such as animal husbandry, science and technology, leadership and community service, 4-H members can register for projects such as money management, consumer education, or financial literacy.
When 4-H members begin a project, they need to write down their project goal. This is great practice for managing their own finances as they will need to identify their personal financial goals and determine their priorities. 4-H members complete project record sheets for their major projects. If they spent money to complete their project, they document it. For example, when a 4-H member has a horse project, they need to consider all the costs involved in keeping that animal alive, healthy, and safe. They inventory their supplies and write down the financial value of those items. Expenses related to feeding and health such as veterinarian bills and costs related to participating in competitions are recorded. This practice reminds them that there are usually costs involved in almost any project they choose. A 4-H alumnus reports “We had to keep records of animals, breeding, litters, sales, [and] showing [events] as well as expenses such as grain, hay, feed and water bowls, carrying cages for showing, and entry fees… becoming responsible for keeping a written record for expenses and income.” In a consumer and family science project such as sewing or childcare, they record any expenses or financial values of items related to their projects such as patterns, fabric, and thread in sewing, or games, books, videos, or craft supplies to entertain young children.
4-H members have the opportunity to serve on county and state planning committees such as 4-H Citizenship Day and 4-H Advisory committees. They review the costs related to the event from the previous year to help in determining the budget for this year’s event. As a committee, they will discuss different ideas for the event and will learn that any changes they make in the program may also affect the final cost, learning financial decision-making and the need to balance income and expenses. In addition, they can become involved in county fair boards where one responsibility of each officer role is financial management. One 4-Her shared “When I was treasurer, I learned more about the financial system in 4-H. I was required to count money during the fair weekend and compare the income to past years. As Coordinator of home arts, I was responsible for calling a vendor with a request for tables. I had to know the estimated amount needed and get the estimate for the fair meeting. For entertainment, I was responsible for filling out forms for performers to ensure they were paid.“
Throughout a youth’s time in the UConn 4-H program, there are many opportunities to learn and practice financial decision-making and responsibility.
For more financial literacy resources visit https://financialliteracy.uconn.edu/
Article by Faye Griffiths-Smith, Extension Financial Educator and Margaret (Peggy) Grillo, 4-H Youth Development Educator