Hi, my name is Bianca Castelan and I am the Financial Literacy for Youth and Young Adults Intern for summer 2020 with the UConn Extension Financial Education Program.
At UConn, I am studying Psychological Sciences with a minor in Spanish. During my two years working in the Community Outreach Program Jumpstart I had the opportunity to work with preschool children teaching them topics like science, world cultures, and language. Through my role as a research assistant at the UConn Cognitive Development Lab, I gained experience using a coding software for three different games. These experiences taught me about the development of young children, research methods, and project management. Eventually, I hope to work in human resources. My other interests include running, baking (especially pastries), and video games.
This summer, I am working with my supervisor on a financial game that will teach students and young adults how to manage their money. I hope to gain more experience in project management and to create a fun, educational experience for college and high school students. I am also creating animated videos for the Connecticut Saves social marketing campaign to promote saving among young adults.
Financial Education Program Helps Participants Improve Their Lives
Managing family and personal finances well is a common challenge. Findings from recent studies show cause for concern regarding Americans’ financial practices. According to the 2018 FINRA Financial Capability Study, nationally:
46% of individuals lack a rainy-day fund,
34% of individuals can answer four or five questions on a basic five-question financial literacy quiz correctly,
35% of individuals with credit cards paid only the minimum on their credit cards during some months in the last year, and
19% of individuals reported that over the past year, their household spent more than their income.
UConn Extension’s financial education program provides workshops, professional development sessions, events, and resources to help Connecticut citizens improve their lives. Participants receive relevant, research-based information and tools to encourage them to adopt sound financial management practices.
“Shortly after I was hired, I conducted a needs assessment. Money management was the topic respondents indicated as most important to address,” says Faye Griffiths-Smith, UConn Extension’s family economics and resource management educator. “Today, there is increased recognition that financial capability has a strong impact on one’s ability to achieve economic stability and move toward financial security.”
The Extension Financial Education Program reaches adults and young people. One focus area is reaching people living on limited incomes, those making life transitions such as entering or returning to the workforce, or others experiencing financial challenges. Recent participants included veterans, senior center residents, adult education students, teens, summer youth employment students, and college students. “Reaching teens, college students, and other young adults at a point when they are likely to start facing important financial decisions is exciting because the information is highly relevant for them and many recognize it is important,” Faye says. “Engaging learning activities are a great way for them to experience their future financial lives.”
“As the incoming President of the Connecticut Jump$tart Coalition (www.jumpstart.org/connecticut) promoting financial literacy for youth, I look forward to working with teachers, other professionals, and volunteers from many organizations across the state on ways to increase the financial knowledge of our young people,” Faye says.
Strength in Numbers
The UConn Extension Financial Education Program collaborates with agencies and organizations to enhance the financial capability and economic security of Connecticut citizens. Collaborations are key to reaching diverse audiences that might otherwise be unaware of available resources. Complex financial products and services make it harder for people to be aware of all their options. Training agency and organization professionals is another way to expand the impact of Extension’s financial education and information. These staff reach their clients or students with information as financial topics and concerns arise.
Faye has provided financial empowerment training for hundreds of social service agency staff through Your Money, Your Goals, a program developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“Through collaboration with United Way of Greater Waterbury, I’ve also had the opportunity to provide financial coaching training and technical assistance for volunteers who work with agency client requesting this assistance,” Faye shares. Being a financial educator involves more than performing financial calculations and staying current on the myriad of products and services available as well as the impact of legislative changes on our finances. It gets to the heart of what people believe is important about how they live. It involves listening, learning about their situations, and guiding them in identifying their options while addressing financial decisions they face.
In Celebration of America Saves Week and Connecticut Saves Week February 25th through March 2nd, 2019
Have you ever been taken by surprise by an expense such as a car or home repair, a refrigerator that needs to be replaced immediately, or school expenses? Often we need to act quickly so that we can get to work, keep a small problem from getting bigger, or make it possible for a child to participate in school activities. Managing regular bills can be hard enough without shock of additional bills. In one of the professional development workshops I teach, I ask the participants work together in small groups to list examples of unexpected financial events in their lives and those of their clients. As you might guess, once they get started, they have no trouble creating very long lists.
Having a cash cushion can help increase your family’s or household’s financial stability. Knowing you have money available can help reduce financial stress and give you more options for how to handle different situations.
How do I get started?
Make it your goal and develop a plan to achieve it. Even a small amount of money saved over time adds up. If you could save $10 a week for a full year, you would $520. Will you be receiving a tax refund? Plan to save at least a portion. A review of your current spending can be helpful in identifying opportunities to save money. Many of my workshop participants have suggested setting up a separate savings account specifically for this purpose. Direct deposit is an excellent way to make saving a habit.
How much money do I need in an emergency fund?
While the best answer to this question really depends on the specifics of your situation, here are a couple of suggestions. If you currently do not have money set aside for emergencies, set a goal with a dollar amount such as $500 or $1000 and timeframe by which you plan to achieve it. Identify the steps you are going to take to help you move closer to that goal. If you already have some money set aside, calculate how much money you would need to cover basic living expenses for a period of six months or possibly longer. If that amount of money seems like more than you can possibly save, do not let that be a deterrent. Break it down into a series of short-term goals. For example, focus on what you feel you can reasonably do over the next three months and keep track of your progress.
Anticipate the Unexpected—Plan!
It is human nature not to want to face certain realities. However, we could likely prepare better if we anticipated some likely events and planned how to deal with them effectively. For example, appliances have a limited life expectancy and will need repair or replacement. Tires for a car anticipated to last for an approximate amount of mileage. A home will require maintenance to its various systems. Just as a weather forecaster keeps track of different conditions to anticipate what is likely to happen with the weather, we can also do that in regard to our finances. Though we will not be 100% correct all the time, we can develop a plan to help us be better prepared.
Connecticut Saves Week February 25 through March 2 is a great time to assess your savings and make plans to improve your financial security. Part of the national America Saves Campaign, the Connecticut Saves Coalition is coordinated by the UConn Extension Financial Education Program with the support of these partnering organizations: the Connecticut Department of Labor; the Connecticut Department of Banking; Connecticut State Library; Hartford Job Corps Academy; the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut; Human Resources Agency, Inc.; the Connecticut Association for Human Services; Chelsea Groton Bank; and others. Visit www.connecticutsaves.org.
UConn Extension has partnered with America Saves Week again this year, and we are celebrating from February 27th through March 4th. Connecticut Saves Campaign is a statewide initiative to encourage Connecticut residents to take positive financial actions and save regularly to turn their dreams into reality. Here you will find workshops and events around the state, tools to help you set goals, develop strategies, and start saving. Join others from around our state in working toward achieving your financial goals. You can take the pledge online.
Let America Saves help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. That’s what this pledge is all about. And it doesn’t stop there. America Saves will keep you motivated with periodic information, advice, tips, and reminders sent by email or text message to help you reach your savings goal. Think of us as your own personal support system.