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Looking for Change in All the Right Places: Partnerships that really work!

Proceedings of the Association of Financial Counseling and Planning Education

November 15, 2011

Syble Solomon, M.Ed., President, LifeWise/Money Habitudes
Dena Wise, Ph.D. and Ann A. Berry, Ph.D., The University of Tennessee Extension
Key Words: financial literacy, financial competency, asset building, networking, counseling
Target Audience: Financial educators who are interested in collaborating with non-traditional partners to reach more people.

  1. Provide a brief look at how the field is wide open for new opportunities to bring financial education to more people who need it in the moment and proactively help others build assets for their future.
  2. Brief overview of examples of seven partnerships with non-financial programs.
  3. Open discussion to exchange participants’ ideas and experiences.

In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University says, “We cling to the idea that we are fully rational beings…and we can figure out anything…We have a desire to see ourselves as perfectly capable.” Although people may see themselves as capable and rational, they often make irrational financial decisions and defend them even when they have conflicting factual information. How can we help people get past that self-image and the intangibles that negatively influence their financial decisions? In their book Mind over Money, Ted and Brad Klontz, psychologists who have focused their research on the impact of an individual’s relationship with money, report that one can change irrational and self-defeating financial behaviors by becoming aware of the emotional component and training oneself with new skills to respond differently in the future.
Easier said than done. Money is such an emotionally charged topic that people want to avoid it. The challenge is getting people to voluntarily attend programs to discover their own emotional triggers and learn money management and communication skills so they can react differently. For example, an organization promoting healthy marriages acknowledged that money is named the number one source of conflict in relationships and many local families were suffering financially. Consequently they offered a standalone money-related event for couples which was well publicized but the response was very disappointing. When they randomly contacted people from their mailing list to learn why they didn’t register, there were two primary reasons given: (1) We’re doing okay. We don’t fight about money so we don’t need to come. (2) Money is a huge problem for us but it would be too embarrassing to come.
What have we learned? To start the conversation about money we must be able to engage with them. How can we do that? First, make it easy, comfortable and convenient for them to come. If possible combine it with an existing on-going program in a familiar location. Second, make the situation as emotionally safe and non-threatening as possible by partnering with a familiar person or program where trust and credibility are already established. Third, to tap into the emotional component, provide activities and tools that are non-judgmental, fun and engaging rather than lifeless PowerPoint presentations and test-like inventories or assessments.
Partnering with organizations that already have a trusted relationship with individuals needing financial help can provide the bridge between those individuals and available resources. Community and faith-based organizations are just two possible partners. We will provide a brief overview of seven non-financial programs that are now including a financial component or resources: (1) The Dibble Institute, a non-profit focused on teaching relationship skills to youth; (2)Cornell University’s BOLD program for business undergraduates; (3) ACF, Region X, Leadership Summit; (4) Leaders in the faith community of Knoxville,TN; (5) Pre-marriage classes and marriage enrichment programs; (6) Leading Beyond Boundaries, an international youth leadership program and (7) Therapists and coaches addressing personal, relationship and career issues.
Participants will have the opportunity to share examples of non-traditional partnerships they have established.