Making financial classes for women more engaging

The Issue: How to make financial classes for women more engaging and welcoming while providing valuable skills for handling money.

financial classes for womenWho: Emily Adams is an agriculture and natural resources educator with Ohio State University Extension Service in Coshocton County.

What: Adams runs Annie’s Project in Coshocton County. She also runs a follow-up financial education program for women called Moving Beyond The Basics. Annie’s Project is, at its heart, a risk management program for women. Now managed by riskIowa State Extension, the program fosters problem solving, record keeping, and decision-making skills in farm women.

How:

  • Adams teaches risk management over 6 weeks using the Annie’s Project curriculum. The financial classes for women are held once a week for 6 weeks. Each evening class is three hours and participants enjoy a catered dinner together (to build camaraderie and because many participants come straight from work). Classes have about 15 people.
  • Participants pay a nominal fee of about $65 to participate. The program has gotten grant money from the North Central Risk Management Education Center and sponsorship from Farm Credit to defray costs.
    annies project - financial classes for women

    A group of participants from Annie’s Project, financial classes for women.

  • The 6 weeks of Annie’s Project covers risk management as it relates to Production, Marketing, Legal, Institutional, Financial and Human Resources.
  • Moving Beyond the Basics – Farm Financial Education for Women is a supplemental program that focuses on finances and recordkeeping. Adams teaches this course as six sessions as well. Classes are held in the evening and dinner is provided. Ideally, those who participate in the supplemental financial classes for women have already taken the core Annie’s Project classes, but this isn’t required.
  • The very first topic in the Moving Beyond the Basics series is financial habits and attitudes. This is taught using Money Habitudes cards. The module lasts about an hour.
  • Each participant gets a deck of Money Habitudes cards to sort. Then participants are able to interpret their own money personality results. Next, participants break up into groups based on their dominant Money Habitudes types (so people with the same money personality work together) and answer group questions.
  • The recommendation to use Money Habitudes came from Tim Eggers and Kristin Schulte with ISU Extension.
  • Money Habitudes plays an important role in the financial classes for women. The cards:
    • Make for a fun, engaging and hands-on first activity to get participants involved in the classes.
    • Break down the wall to talking about finances.
    • Create conversation between participants, to make them accustomed to sharing and talking with each other.
    • Help participants understand their own financial habits and attitudes.
    • Allow women to gain insight into how to talk about money and farm finances with other people – often other family members involved in the business. As Adams says, “Most of these women are not alone on their farm and there’s somebody else who probably thinks about money in a different way in that operation.”
  • The interactive, sharing nature of Money Habitudes aligns well with the larger objectives of Annie’s Project classes. The women’s financial education classes are designed to be hands-on instead of just lectures. The project also strives to utilize peer learning and networking in a safe, non-threatening environment.
  • After working with the Money Habitudes cards, the first night’s class covers financial recordkeeping practices and vocabulary as well as how financial statements work together.
  • Participants have the opportunity to borrow the cards and do them at home with other people after the first class.
  • Later classes build on the first night. These cover balance sheets, accrual adjustments to income statements, cash flow estimation, electronic recordkeeping, standard financial ratios and benchmarks.

Why:

  • “It’s a really nice activity-based learning to have for the first night. It helps the women get more comfortable with each other and sets the stage for how you relate to money and how you deal with money,” says Adams.
  • “You’re going to learn all these skills and all this technical information, but, at the end of the day, if you can’t go home and talk to your husband, brother or whomever your business partner may be about these financial decisions and get to the root of where financial troubles may be coming from, then the rest of the classes are for naught. Understanding how you relate to money and being able to communicate that to other people is a really important, really fundamental skill set.”
  • “I don’t think we’d have people complete all six weeks if we started out the first class with just sitting down and doing a budget or hearing a lecture about finances. We take a holistic approach to adult education.”
  • “Money Habitudes is so hands-on, it’s so immediate and there’s such great feedback on it.”
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