Financial education program for bogus check writers

The Issue: How to help people understand their financial attitudes and spending habits in a fun way in a financial education program.

Who: Susan Routh is an Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences in Grady County, Oklahoma. She also serves on the executive board of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS).

What: Routh teaches the Making Sense of Money Management program. The financial education program is offered within a four-county area (Grady, Caddo, Stephens, and Jefferson County) for bogus check offenders and the public. The class is designed to help families and individuals to better manage household finances. Routh uses Money Habitudes as part of the financial education program.

How:

  • financial educaiton toolkitThe financial education program is offered monthly. The financial classes usually have 10-20 participants. Students come a diverse range of ages.
  • The 4-hour financial class is usually held during a weekday afternoon. Participants pay a nominal fee of $15 for the class, which covers materials they take home.
  • The public can attend the money management classes, but most of the students come from a partnership with the district attorney’s office which refers people who have gone to court for writing bad checks.
  • Because students are compelled to attend and because they are struggling financially (part of the reason they wrote bad checks), there is a sense of defensiveness that a facilitator has to overcome.
  • As a result, Routh says the approach is one where the class isn’t structured to be punitive, to say, “you’re bad and did something illegal.” Instead, Routh takes an approach “that you did this because you needed money and how can we help you so your finances are in better shape?”
  • “We don’t want to lecture to people. We want the class to be hands-on. We want people to be able to practice and really use what we’re teaching. That’s where the Money Habitudes cards come in,” says Routh.
  • The Making Sense of Money Management class starts with an introduction aboutĀ  financial management. TheĀ financial education program then covers:
    • what is a check register and what is a bank statement; what it means to use a checking account.
    • credit reports and how to manage credit well.
    • debt management
    • the importance of savings and emergency savings
    • attitudes about spending and goal setting
    • financial goal setting
    • making a spending plan; what’s coming and going out
  • Money Habitudes cards are used in the section for understanding spending habits. Participants are allowed 20-25 minutes to sort the cards.
  • After doing the sorting activity, participants find their own money personality type and go through the interpretation cards. This may be followed by group discussion on spending habits, social influences on spending, etc.
  • Hand-in-hand with understanding one’s current behavior around money, students also create a SMART financial goal about where they want to be in 30 days. These goals are then mailed to participants later in the month.
  • Because of the time limitations of the financial education program, Routh and a few colleagues developed a financial education toolkit for students to take home. It includes resources to help people manage their finances on their own.
  • “At the end, people always want to take the cards home and share them with people they share their finances with so they can understand where other people are coming from,” says Routh.

Why:

  • “When people use the cards, there’s often a moment of truth,” says Routh.
  • “Reading about the different personality types opens the door to people giving themselves a chance to switch lanes.”
  • “We’ve seen remarkable changes in the people who’ve gone though the class,” says Routh. There have been about 250 participants since the program started in 2008.