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Financial literacy for college student financial aid

Money Habitudes is used by colleges and universities in to promote financial literacy for college students. It may be a student financial aid office running a financial aid workshop or using the tool in financial counseling sessions. It’s also used in a number of colleges’ peer financial counseling programs. And it’s used in residence life programs on financial literacy. This is, of course, in addition to financial planning and family & consumer science classes that use the materials in financial classes.

Typical ways the cards are used on campuses for student financial aid:

  1. college student financial aidTo hook people and get them into financial education classes. Using the Money Habitudes cards for a standalone class is an easy, fun, low-stress way to engage with college students for the first time. It may be something you can do at another event, as part of a student financial aid program, or in residence halls. Although this is an example from military dorms, it’s a similar idea.
  2. As the first class in a series. Often student financial aid offices teach a series like: Budgeting, Getting Banked, Credit Reports and Scores. Now, many organizations just bolt on Money Habitudes as the first class (so the budget class becomes Class #2). Using the money games, they focus on habits, attitudes, values and behaviors in Class #1. It also builds camaraderie in financial aid classes and sets a tone of fun and open sharing. And it helps people understand why they do what they do with money and allows people to set better goals.
  3. As an icebreaker and get-to-know-you tool to be used by financial peer counselors. In short, Money Habitudes helps people talk about money. There are a number of colleges that have financial peer counseling programs like this; a great example is work being done by Red to Black at Texas Tech. This is a similar financial peer coaching case study.
  4. Finally, Money Habitudes cards are used a lot in financial aid training and financial literacy training sessions. This may be either for financial coaches, financial counselors, volunteers and peer coaches. It’s partly as a training to help people talk about money — always a difficult topic — relate better to clients and be more sensitive to different people who see/use money differently than they do. This relies on the money personality aspect of the cards which helps people better understand themselves and others when it comes to money.

An adult continuing education financial program for auctioneers

The Issue: How to add interesting, engaging content to a continuing education financial program.
wvu extensionWho: Zona Hutson is an Extension Agent with WVU. She works in Doddridge County, West Virginia.
What: WVU Extension Service teaches a recertification class for the state’s auctioneers. Hutson has been teaching the auctioneers’ course for 15 years. Money Habitudes is used as part of the continuing education financial program.

  • The recertification course for auctioneers is six hours long and is usually held on a Saturday.
  • The continuing education financial program typically has 30-40 people. It is mostly an audience of older men.
  • Hutson uses the Money Habitudes cards as a financial ice breaker and a way to engage the class. “When they come in, they’re not necessarily in the greatest mood because they have to spend a whole Saturday getting training. They don’t come in with the best attitude, but the Money Habitudes cards are a good way to get people to open up and feel better. The cards are fun and they really lighten the mood,” she says.
  • The goal of the auctioneer class is teach people about business aspects of auctioneering. However, Hutson says, “It’s always nice to bring something different to the table for them, to keep them engaged in something new and thought-provoking.”
  • In addition to being an energizing activity and helping the auctioneers better understand how they see and use money in a business context, the Money Habitudes activity also helps them understand – and be able to discuss – how they handle money at home. “It really engages people in a discussion about their family finances,” says Hutson.
  • Participants often realize how their business life affects their home life and come to see more clearly what their financial strengths and challenges are.
  • The continuing education financial program devotes about 45 minutes to doing Money Habitudes. After doing the Money Habitudes sorting exercise to determine each person’s money personality type, there is usually some group discussion about financial habits and attitudes.
  • Whereas other financial education classes that use Money Habitudes will move on to modules like doing a budget or buying a home, the auctioneers’ class then covers other aspects of the industry. Although there is no fixed curriculum, other sessions may include identifying counterfeit bills, spotting fake antiques, and accepting and using credit cards.


  • “They’re so unique, so neat and so fun. It’s a real thought-provoking thing to go through those cards!”
  • “I would certainly use the Money Habitudes cards as an introductory activity for any financial class. It’s a great way to get people to open their minds to financial management.”
  • “It’s so easy to use. It’s one of those things to definitely have in your arsenal. If you need a program quickly, you just pull Money Habitudes out and you’ve got it!”
  • “We don’t always have a lot of time, so I know this is a program that is easy to do, it’s fun and people really like it.”
  • “Finances are a hard topic and a very personal one. The cards make it a much lighter issue.”
  • “People can think, ‘Oh, we’re just playing cards,’ but it has a lot of value beyond getting them to relax and have fun. It really helps people understand who they are and why they do what they do.”

financial capability grant: housing, emergency assistance & workforce development

This financial capability grant announcement is applicable to many Money Habitudes users who are doing work in asset building.
CFED financial capability grantCFED, in partnership with Bank of America Charitable Foundation, is soliciting applications from organizations interested in joining an eighteen-month Intensive Learning Cluster to integrate financial capability into social service programs in the following sectors:

  • housing
  • workforce development
  • emergency assistance (critical needs)

This financial capability grant is limited to organizations that provide services within one of the targeted markets. Organizations who are selected to participate will receive an $8,000 stipend. The Learning Cluster will run from November 25, 2013 through May 31, 2015.
Applications are due Thursday, October 21, 2013.

Teaching financial management to young kids

Our Money Habitudes materials help people teach financial management to adults and teens. Because the hands-on activity is used like money management games, we’re often asked if there is a version for young kids.
The Money Habitudes for Teens version is designed for high school students, typically ages 15-18. Using the cards requires that one is making financial decisions and that’s not always true with populations younger than high school. Although we’ve heard stories of people successfully using the cards with junior high students and very young kids — as young as eight and nine years old — we don’t recommend the materials for these younger age groups. And at this point, we don’t have plans to develop a version of the teaching tool for very young kids. Still, many of the the individual statement cards can be used as conversation starters across most ages.
captain cash financial education for young kidsSo while we do not have a version to help teach financial management to elementary school and junior high kids, we’re certainly interested in programs that do reach this audience. After all, Money Habitudes is unique in helping teens and adults understand their habits, attitudes, values and behaviors when it comes to money — and a big part of what influences our financial habits and attitudes is what happens in childhood.
There are obviously more financial education curricula for teens and adults, but there are some that are used with much younger kids. One of those is Captain Cash from Purdue Extension. It’s recommended for third and fourth grade. It’s described as “an interactive educational program designed to teach basic financial management skills to your students.” It covers the following:

  • Money behaviors observed and learned in childhood impact adult behaviors.
  • Money management messages that children process in the home, the community, on television, and via other media shape their values, attitudes and future money habits.
  • Individuals and families are not able to respond to economic disruptions because they have not learned critical money management concepts and skills.

Finance in the Classroom

Money Habitudes is now recommended as a resource in Finance in the Classroom. Finance in the Classroom is a service of the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah Education Network.
finance in the classroomFinance in the Classroom supports Utah’s initiative to include a financial literacy course as a high school graduation requirement. The state is also pushing to further empower youth in making financial decisions. A number of other states have undertaken similar initiatives with many including financial literacy as a graduation requirement.
Money Habitudes is used in both adult and teen financial education classes. The Money Habitudes teen financial education curriculum won an Excellence in Financial Literacy Education Award.
Money Habitudes is often used as an fun, hands-on ice breaker or introductory activity that helps people talk about money, understand their money personality and their spending habits.
States like Utah often have their own state financial education requirements. We maintain a list of how Money Habitudes fits within a variety of national financial education standards including Jump$tart, FINRA and the National Financial Educators Council’s Financial Literacy Standards.

Communication skills in relationships

We talk a lot about the right way to talk about money. After all, money is one of the hardest topics for people to talk about. But, what happens when you don’t have a good interaction around money? There are bound to be upsets in any relationship. (That’s true for other flashpoints in addition to money.)
So sometimes it’s good to review the larger topic of communication skills in relationships, thanks to our friend Dr. Susan Heitler, a Denver clinical psychologist and marriage counselor. Although she also tackles the central issue of money in relationships, she’s put together a great toolkit of articles on communication skills:

As with Money Habitudes, there’s a focus here on understanding your own habits and attitudes – and those of your partner; self-assessment is a big part of why our money personality methodology works. There are practical tips to have good, healthy conversations. There’s also a focus on being proactive and not reactive – including learning communication skills and employing them early in a relationship. Also, there’s a sense of fun and lightness that’s especially evident in Heitler’s free online PowerOfTwoMarriage relationship quiz. It’s fast and easy – just like Money Habitudes!
Also, online relationship tests are top of mind for us as we’re working on that transition for Money Habitudes …

Financial habits, attitudes, behaviors in money classes

The Issue: How to start a series of money classes with an engaging session that covers financial habits, attitudes and behaviors.
women work and community money classesWho: Jean Dempster and Janet Smith are Asset Development Trainers at Women, Work, and Community in Maine. Both have been teaching money management classes for more than 10 years.
What: Women, Work, and Community (WWC) is the only statewide women’s economic development organization in Maine. It has 10 centers and 8 outreach sites. It operates under the University of Maine at Augusta. WWC offers classes and workshops to individuals in four areas: Career, Starting a Business, Money Management, and Leadership.

  • WWC offers a series of financial education classes. My Money Works: Tools for Smart Money Choices, a 5-class financial education series, is 15 hours.
  • These money classes progress as follows:
    • financial habits and attitudes
    • income and expenses; budgeting
    • credit reports and credit scores
    • protecting assets and retirement
    • basics of investing
  • The money classes have previously been supported by a FINRA Investor Education Foundation Financial Education in Your Community grant. Most of the financial curriculum was created in-house, but also draws on FDIC’s Money Smart financial curriculum and FINRA Investor Education Foundation materials.
  • Although there is a focus on women, classes are about 20% men. Often, people sign up for the money classes as a result of some financial crisis like unemployment or divorce.
  • The money classes usually have 8-12 students. Because the classes are voluntary, they must feel fun, helpful and welcoming.
  • For years, WWC has started its financial education series with a class on financial habits and attitudes. “We’ve always really felt that if you don’t look at your attitudes and beliefs about money, then it’s hard to change your behavior,” says Dempster.
  • “What we’ve always done that’s different is start off with a whole first session that talks about attitudes and early childhood memories about money and other things that lead to where we are today instead of just the cold, hard facts of how to do a budget. Many people are not comfortable talking about budgets and numbers so we want to build up group rapport before we tackle the numbers and skills,” says Dempster.
  • The financial habits and attitudes class originally used material from the book, Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.
  • WWC now uses Money Habitudes cards as the foundation of its first class, called Getting Comfortable With Money. “Several years ago one of our staff members got a set of the cards and loved them and said they’d be a good fit for our programs. So we all tried the cards and thought the same thing and decided to integrate them into our existing classes,” says Smith.
  • Used like money management games, the class gets 15-20 minutes to sort their own deck of Money Habitudes cards. This is followed by interpreting their money personality. The Money Habitudes module lasts for about an hour during the 3-hour first class.
  • The activity helps people talk about money. It is followed by a discussion about the money messages that people receive in life. Smith asks people, “What are some of the phrases you remember about money when you were growing up?” She also asks what financial habits and behaviors they observed.
  • Later, participants set up a money journal to track spending over the next few weeks. Finally, they write out positive affirmations about money management.
  • In addition, WWC offers the Money Habitudes activity as a stand-alone class. These money classes last about an hour and are offered at their own facilities and at off-site events like free tax prep workshops. “We use Money Habitudes to recruit for our longer financial education classes. Someone will come in to a one-time class on Money Habitudes then think, ‘This was really good and fun and I want to learn more about managing my money,’ so then they may sign up for our longer classes,” says Smith.


  • “What makes our classes different is our focus on behavior, so the Money Habitudes cards have been a great addition for us,” says Dempster.
  • “We’ve known for years that people can learn the skills, but then they need to apply them. And people don’t apply what they know, not because they don’t know about it, but because there are other things going on. We want to help people understand what else is going on,” says Smith
  • “If it were just about the tools, people would all already be doing budgets! There are many budget books and budget websites. There’s more to it than that. It’s that change in attitude – that I can do this, that there are changes I can make – that is so important,” says Dempster.
  • “I’d been working with a woman, one-on-one, to get her finances in order. And she’d worked really hard over several months to get her budget together. Maybe a year later, I got a call from her because she said she’d seen that we were doing the Money Habitudes class and she wanted to attend. So she came to the class and at the end said, ‘Oh, now I understand! I’ve got this budget and I was keeping track of my expenses – in fact, I’m still keeping track – but I’m not following it! I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t sticking to it!’ She had never given me that feedback over the previous year. It was just such an a-ha moment for her! She finally told me that her problem was spending online – but she’d never told me about that when we met until we did the Money Habitudes activity. After that, we could finally work on strategies for that and really help her,” says Smith.

Bonus financial conversation starters for individuals, couples & counselors

Usually when people use Money Habitudes as financial conversation starters, they stick to the usual money personality instructions. In the typical solitaire sort, people get to see their money personality for how they are today. But, of course, our financial habits and attitudes change over time.
Here are a few bonus financial conversation starters you can do with Money Habitudes money management games. Bear in mind though that you’ll almost always want to do the basic exercise first. This provides a valuable financial self-assessment and allows you to benchmark your financial behaviors as you are today. Then you can move on to these bonus financial conversation starters when the situation is right and if you have time.
These largely help people see how our financial attitudes and spending habits and behaviors evolve and change. Like the slow rise of sea level, it can be hard for people to see how much they’ve changed over the years because it’s often a gradual process.
The financial conversation starters below can be used by couples on their own – or by professionals like therapists and marriage counselors. (Therapists and counselors may also be interested in the Bringing Money Into the Conversation guide, which includes tons of other activities and resources beyond the Money Habitudes financial conversation starters.
Of course, always bear in mind the usual suggestions to have a good conversation about money, which we’ve posted before.

Financial conversation starters for Money Habitudes

  • before and after financial conversation startersBefore and after getting married. It’s not uncommon for couples to change after being around someone else for a long time. It may be that being with someone else moderates your behavior – or reinforces it.
  • Before and after another major life event: divorce, having children, going away to school, retirement, etc. Did this major event change you at all? Was it a dramatic shift? Did it make you hesitant to spend money – or did you start spending more freely? Were you more likely to sacrifice for others? Do you think the change is permanent or is it a phase?
  • You, today and 10 or 20 years ago. The goal with these financial conversation starters is to look at how you’ve changed. And, in that context, what’s changed around you? Were you living with your parents before and now live independently? Did you have kids living with you but now they’re grown and living on their own? Was the economy different Did you have different goals for yourself? What have you gained from these years of experience?
  • How would you answer the cards differently if you lost your job? (Or, what if you went back to work?) Employment can have a big effect on our financial habits, attitudes and behaviors. Many people are spurred to think about their finances and talk about money only after this big change. But it’s helpful to be able to think about the situation in advance, when you’re not feeling like you’re in the midst of a crisis.
  • How would your mother sort the cards; how would your father sort the cards? A very common a-ha! moment for people is seeing how they are like or unlike their parents (or other formative adults in their lives). Because our own household was our own “normal” environment, it can be hard to take an outside look in on that time. If you’re always spending money on other people, it may be that this was a strong tendency for your mother that you’ve just made a habit of because it was normal. That could very well be spending too freely, never spending anything, hoarding, spending to impress others, planning every expenditure in an exacting manner, etc.
  • Sort your cards for yourself and then sort the cards as if you were your spouse or partner; do it for each other. These financial conversation starters reveal differences between how you see yourself and how your partner sees you. It helps identify gaps and misconceptions you might have about each other. One of the keys here is to refer back to the “how others see you” section on the yellow interpretation cards. If you see yourself as very frugal, but your partner sees you as overly cheap, a good conversation about how you both see money may big dividends. However, some of these differences may call for some professional coaching or counseling.
  • How would you like to be with money in 5 years? How is that different from the money personality profile you got of yourself when you do the cards for how you are today? What would you need to do differently to become that future version of yourself? Do you want to become more balance? Do you want to increase a certain dimension within your money personality? Do you want to decrease a certain part of how you see and use money today? This returns to the topic of financial goal setting. For that, try using the SMART method to set good financial goals.
  • How would you your sibling(s) sort the cards? Just as with doing the cards from your parents’ perspective, doing them from a sibling’s perspective can also be helpful. Why do you and your sibling(s) get along – or not – when it comes to money? What do you admire about your brother or sister? What do you think they admire about you? How was your childhood similar to theirs? Was your family always wealthy or always poor – or were there times when your family’s fortunes changed dramatically?

Teaching personal finance to foster care youth

The new “Protecting the Credit of Youth in Foster Care” guide recommends using Money Habitudes.  The foster care report was prepared for the Annie E. Casey Foundation by Jennifer Miller and Rebecca Robuck of Childfocus.
foster care youth credit guideA good resource for those working with youth in foster care, the report lays out why credit is such a big issue for this population:

Every year, more than 26,000 young  people age out of foster care, many with  no permanent home and no parent to  help them navigate the road to adulthood … Stolen  identities and bad credit pose yet another  obstacle on the road to independence. For youth who have faced years of instability  and uncertainty, bad credit stands in the  way of some basic life activities, such as  renting an apartment, buying a car, getting  a job, having a bank account or securing  student loans.

The Protecting the Credit of Youth in Foster Care guide adopts the youth empowerment approach with three primary goals:

  1. Educating young people about what credit is and how it can impact their futures.
  2. Clearing credit reports to help youth  on the road to financial health.
  3. Equipping youth to maintain good  credit in the future

Helping youth in foster care understand their own credit history and issues

Within the first section, “Understand Your Own Credit History And Issues,” Money Habitudes is recommended as a tool to understand one’s own financial experiences.:

Reflect on your experience with credit and identity theft. Consider your own approach to credit and financial issues. How knowledgeable are you about money and credit? Have you ever had your identity stolen, and if so, how was it resolved? Your attitude and behaviors toward credit and identity theft impact how you work with young people. Regardless of your experience, it’s important to approach young people’s financial education and empowerment in an unbiased way.

Money Habitudes is a resource on attitudes and values about money that also has tools for teens and young adults.

Money Habitudes in financial education programs for youth in foster care

The Money Habitudes activity is often used with young people in high school classes. It’s also used in community classes and counseling – including within the foster care system. Money Habitudes works well as a money management activity for both adults and youth because it looks and feels like a game. It makes it fun and easy for people to talk about money and understand their spending habits. It shows people their money personality and helps people see and understand what has shaped and influenced their financial habits and actions. It can be used as an ice breaker activity or as a stand-alone class. It is often used as a lead-in module for a series of financial education classes.
It is used as:

  1. money conversation starter
  2. financial ice breaker
  3. money personality quiz

Two versions of our money management games are typically used with youth in foster care: Money Habitudes for Teens or Money Habitudes II for Young Adults (18-25). In addition, our award-winning high school finance curriculum for teens is used in foster care programs. It includes both financial skills and relationship skills. Read a case study about foster care financial education using Money Habitudes …