Financial Education and Relationship Classes that are Fun and Engaging

airman and family financial and relationship classesThe Issue: How to get servicemembers – and their spouses – to want to attend financial education and relationship education classes and come back for more.

Who: Gary Strickland, chief of the Airman and Family Readiness Center (AFRC) at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

What: Mountain Home Air Force Base revolves around the 366th Fighter Wing of the Air Combat Command. Its Airman and Family Readiness Center provides individuals, families and leadership with policy, programs and services that strengthen communities and promote self-sufficiency, mission readiness and adaptation to the Air Force way of life. Although the Airman and Family Readiness Center serves a wide range of servicemembers and their families, many of its students and clients are young airmen who are 18-22.

How:

  • At Mountain Home AFB, Money Habitudes cards are used in three ways:
    • One-hour finance class. Strickland calls this “a teaser.” It has a fun, non-threatening appeal so airmen want to attend. Having had a good experience and taken a financial education class, it opens participants’ eyes to related issues they want more help on: communication, saving, handling credit, TSP, etc. “Once you have them in one class, you want to give enough information about our other classes – not so much that they feel like they have to take the class, but to spark interest to get them to sign up,” says Strickland.
    • A multi-hour block during the base’s all-day finance class. Before diving into other topics like budgeting, students learn about their underlying money mindset. After each individual does the money personality sorting exercise, it transitions to a class conversation about the various Money Habitudes categories. “It leads into a really good discussion,” says Strickland.
    • As a one-hour module in MHAFB’s all-day marriage class, based on the PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) curriculum. The cards are used to complement PREP’s own brief section on money as well as the role of different personalities in marriage.
  • Many individuals get one-on-one counseling before going to a finance or relationship class. This makes people feel more comfortable in a group environment and decreases any stigma of seeking help from the Airman and Family Readiness Center. “We handle almost every single negative with a personal, individual visit or a series of individual appointments. So by the time the person is put into a class, it’s not seen as a negative,” says Strickland.
  • Finance classes typically have 20 people and are often full. The financial class usually has 80 percent individual airmen; 20 percent are airmen and their spouses. The marriage class is attended by 7-10 couples.

Why:

  • Strickland says that the biggest financial issue he sees is the availability of credit. “Military folks gets credit real easy. It’s easy for them to get themselves into debt,” he notes. It’s important to keep airman in good financial shape – and prepare them for the future.
  • Using Money Habitudes makes the classes seem non-threatening and fun – which is important if attendees are going to return for other classes. “Word of mouth is our biggest marketing tool,” says Strickland.
  • Strickland advocates for programs that are active and engaging. In addition to the hands-on Money Habitudes activity, the AFRC’s programs draw on role playing, peer coaching, video clips, projects and group discussion. As a case in point, while the PREP marriage program comes with some 300 PowerPoint slides, the base only utilizes about 25 to underscore main points. “My belief is that the more senses a person engages, the better off they are in gaining and retaining the information,” he says.
  • “One of the classes we do uses the PREP model. PREP includes brief sections on personalities and why couples fight. We looked at those two sections and thought that the different personalities in handling money is so important, so we need more than 5 minutes on those and that’s why we bring in Money Habitudes. And Money Habitudes is catchy and people are going to sign up for that class. It doesn’t take away from PREP but it adds and builds.”
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