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Date-night relationship classes for couples on money

The Issue: How to cover finances in a series of relationship classes – but in a way that’s fun enough to feel like a date.
lunch and learn financial education Who: Kylee Miller is a project manager at Marriage Matters Jackson, in Jackson, Michigan. The relationship education organization is housed at the United Way and was originally supported by a federal Healthy Marriages grant. It aims to strengthen marriages and families and decrease divorce.
What: Marriage Matters Jackson runs a variety of relationship education programs. Its major offering, “Five Great Dates,” is a five-week series of relationship classes for couples who are seriously dating or engaged.

  • Marriage Matters Jackson holds its series of couples’ relationship classes weekly at different date-like locations throughout the city. “We go to venues where they can have their own table. We go to a different place each week so it really feels like you’re going out on dates,” says Miller.
  • Each premarital class is two hours. The evening begins with an hour-long presentation by a speaker on a topic of importance to premarital couples. This is followed by a dessert or an appetizer break. Couples then have another hour or so by themselves to talk and work together on an activity.
  • The goal of the relationship classes is make them seem more like date nights than workshops. By combining food, locations like restaurants, and a more interactive format, they are designed to be fun and upbeat. Attendees should not feel that they’re going to just another classroom.
  • Couples pay $75 for all five relationship classes.
  • The relationship classes cover topics like communication, goal setting, and finances. Money Habitudes cards are the foundation of the money class.
  • Marriage Matters Jackson promotes its series of relationship classes in a variety of ways. One important way is to let people experience shorter, standalone workshops (including one using Money Habitudes) that are fun and non-threatening. “Getting attendees to show up has not always been easy, but once we proved to people that we’re not scary, we’re not going to make them do something that’s uncomfortable, they come to associate our name with something that’s safe, fun and entertaining,” says Miller.
  • In the money class, the format is the same as the other relationship classes: an hour-long presentation on money and finances, a break for food, and then couples do the Money Habitudes activity together. Couples go over their results and read the interpretation cards together to understand their money personalities.
  • “The goal of that night isn’t to make a budget. It’s to get the ball rolling so they they’re able to communicate better and learn more about each other,” says Miller.
  • Some organizations that use Money Habitudes cards in classes want to encourage large, group discussion. However, Miller says that their relationship classes forego a group conversation in favor of couples learning to talk about money on their own.
  • In many respects, the class is proactive. It helps couples establish a pattern and practice of having good conversations about money.


  • “Finances are not easy for couples to talk about, but a simple card game makes it not so scary. And, from a facilitator’s standpoint, we don’t have to stand up in front of people and tell them, ‘You’re doing this wrong!’ or ‘You need to do this!’ The participants can come to those conclusions on their own. We want to keep things as light and fun as possible and this card game does that. That’s the beauty of the Money Habitudes cards.”
  • “When you talk about finances, especially with the engaged couples who are in that la-la phase of venues, dresses and a wedding cake, it’s hard to bring up serious conversations about what the future is going to be like. What’s really nice about the Money Habitudes cards there is that it’s easy and it feels like a game, but you can have a conversation – and a serious conversation – about what your future is going to look like.”

Lunch class on financial education

The Issue: How to cover finances in relationship education classes. In addition, how to attract new people and increase attendance in relationship classes.
lunch and learn financial educationWho: Kylee Miller is a project manager at Marriage Matters Jackson, in Jackson, Michigan. The relationship education organization is housed at the United Way and was originally supported by a federal Healthy Marriages grant. It aims to strengthen marriages and families and decrease divorce.
What: Marriage Matters Jackson runs a variety of relationship education programs. Among these is a lunch class on Money Habitudes.

  • The core of what Marriage Matters Jackson does is multi-week relationship classes. Their short, stand-alone sampler classes, serve to introduce people to the organization and get them involved in a fun, low-risk atmosphere.
  • “The financial workshops we run are still geared to helping your relationship and the Money Habitudes cards are just wonderful for relationships,” says Miller.
  • The hour-long midday relationship class is held at a downtown library. This is close to businesses, allowing people to attend on their lunch break.
  • Marriage Matters Jackson promotes its classes via its Facebook page, direct mail postcards and through email blasts to its mailing list. The organization relies a lot on positive word of mouth advertising from people who have previously participated in its programs.
  • When promoting the relationship class, they use this verbiage:
    • Start great conversations about money and finances. Money is one of the most difficult subjects for people to discuss. As a fun and engaging conversation starter, Money Habitudes makes talking about money easy and approachable.
    • The financial personality quiz aspect of the tool provides important insights about money issues.
    • Couples can use the cards to understand where they complement and conflict with each others’ habits and attitudes, which gives them a strong foundation to talk about important financial issues
  • Both individuals and couples (married, dating and engaged) attend the relationship class. Individuals who attend may be single or part of a couple.
  • Although the grant requires that the class be free, Marriage Matters Jackson offers the option for people to buy lunch. (Attendees can also bring their own lunch.) “In our history, we have learned that if there isn’t a financial commitment, people aren’t as invested. So we charge if they want us to provide lunch for them,” says Miller. Lunches cost $7-10.
  • Setting up, handing out lunch orders and getting people settled mean that the actual teaching time in the relationship class is more like 45 minutes than an hour.
  • The lunch class starts with a short introduction and then an explanation about how to use the money management games. Attendees get about 15 minutes to sort their Money Habitudes cards. They then have a chance to use the interpretation cards to better understand their own money personality. The remainder of the class covers how one’s money personality manifests itself in one’s life, finances and relationship.
  • Attendees get to keep their deck of Money Habitudes cards. They can go home and use the cards on their own or with a friend, spouse or partner. This helps people talk about money, spending habits, investing, etc. at home.
  • The midday seminar serves as a feeder to Marriage Matters Jackson’s other relationship classes.


  • “After that hour, we hope we’ve moved the bar in terms of their understanding of their financial lives. That’s the major goal, but we also want to keep them involved in what we’re doing and bring people back to another workshop and hope they tell their friends that they had a good time. That word-of-mouth marketing is so important. If someone has a good time doing the Money Habitudes workshop, they’ll tell their friends and they’ll spread the word about what we’re doing,” says Miller.

Teaching personal finance in relationship skills classes

The Issue: How to include personal finances in a relationship skills curriculum that stresses fun, interactive activities that lead to people really understanding and changing their behaviors.
Who: Kara Shade is the Director of Adult Programs at Anthem Strong Families in Dallas, Texas.
What: Anthem Strong Families provides relationship education and life skills in the Dallas area. The organization focuses on vulnerable and at-risk populations including teens, single parents and low-income groups. Anthem Strong Families is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
Anthem Strong Families relationship skills classesHow:

  • Anthem Strong Families serves couples, individuals and teens. It works with engaged and married couples and also does workforce development.
  • It offers three levels of classes for individual adults (this may include singles, parents, etc. who are not attending in a “couples” context).
  • The Level I class is a six-hour block that covers basic relationship skills. This includes some financial management and financial goal-setting. The cornerstone of this introductory level is Kelly Simpson’s Active Relationships Program.
  • After completing Level I, participants can enroll in Level II classes. These include:
    1. “Strength Training” What makes you a good parent; learning how to build on those strengths.
    2. “Anger Management” – Constructive ways to express anger.
    3. “Parenting Piece by Piece” – Understanding and managing parental stress.
    4. Money Habitudes” – Money habits and attitudes.
  • These Level II relationship skills classes are usually offered in pairs, typically for six hours on a Saturday. The series of relationship skills classes is offered monthly.
  • Most attendees sign up for the relationship skills classes after being referred by partner groups. The partners may be other social service and non-profit organizations, Child Protective Services, etc. Many couples come to Anthem Strong Families through the Twogether in Texas program, the state’s healthy marriage initiative.
  • In describing the finance class, Anthem Strong Families uses this language: “Nobody enjoys starting the money conversation. Come learn what your money personality is and how to discuss money with someone who has a different personality!”
  • Money Habitudes classes usually have 10-20 participants.
  • Anthem Strong Families takes a behavioral approach to relationship education and life skills. Participants look at their formative environment, attitudes and emotions as a component of making real behavior change. The classes are all interrelated; for example, the topic of “emotional triggers” will be discussed in the anger management class, the parenting class and the finance class. “There is so much overlap between the classes, it’s constantly reinforcing the basic principles all day long so people leave and feel a lot more confident that they understand their situation and have new tools to decide what they can do differently,” says Shade.
  • The Money Habitudes activity occupies the majority of the 3-hour Level II finance class.
  • The class begins with quick ice breakers and discussion about the money messages people receive. One quick ice breaker is to share “What would you say to money and what would money say to you, if it could talk?”
  • After the facilitator asks the class some quick money personality questions and introduces the idea of different money personalities, each participant gets a deck of Money Habitudes cards and does the basic sorting activity. Students then get to see and interpret their own money personality.
  • This then leads to group discussion about how people see and use money. Group discussion and sharing life experiences play a large role in all of Anthem Strong Families’ classes. The curriculum stresses activity and engagement over lectures.
  • The goal of the Level II finance class is that students will have a sense of self-awareness about their finances and the financial habits and attitudes that underlie their financial behaviors. After that class, some students ask for and receive referrals to other resources and agencies that may be able to help them with specific financial issues.
  • The Level III COATS Program is available to those who have completed Level I and II classes and meet additional pre-screening criteria. This program is geared toward workforce development and overcoming barriers to employment, including: criminal records, homelessness, addiction or substance abuse, etc. Anthem Strong Families’ Level III Program also offers TYRO Champion Training and Job Ethics Training, best practice programs from The Ridge Project. The Level III program provides ongoing case management to participants, as well as referrals and access to additional resources.
  • Data from the last six months of finance classes shows:
    1. 77% of attendees felt “more confident” in making “decisions about family finances” after taking the class.
    2. 63% of attendees said they became more aware that their “spending habits affect their children.”


  • “If something is an ingrained part of your personality, we want people to have a real understanding about it. You don’t just wake up and that’s the way you are; we’re looking at how people develop over time and how they form their beliefs and behaviors,” says Shade.
  • Shade added, “We could write you a prescription and we can tell you ‘do this, do this and do this’ but unless you understand why you need to do it, and why it’s valuable to you, and what the benefits are of doing it another way, we find that people will probably just go back to the easy, default pattern they’ve established. We want to help people expand their thinking so they’re not stuck in the same old mentality.”
  • “People come away from the finance class with a better understanding of themselves: of their money personality, of their spending habits, what their financial habits are, why they are the way they are with money and whether that will help them reach their goals,” Shade explained.
  • “Everything we do is geared toward activities and group discussion; it’s not just someone standing in front of a room lecturing to you for six or eight hours. We try really hard to make sure that everything we do is interactive and hands-on. And we want it to be fun too. We know participants are giving up their time to be there and we want it to be an enjoyable experience. For us, Money Habitudes has been a really fun way to drive the points home and people get excited about it. People really get into it and it infuses energy and enthusiasm into the rest of the class. On the feedback forms for the finance classes, what we always get back is, ‘Loved the cards,’ ‘The cards were my favorite part,'” Shade noted.

Budgeting and Personal Finance Classes in Relationship Education

The Issue: How to deliver effective budgeting and personal finance classes within healthy relationship education.
Who: Deborah Gunn is the program manager for First Things First’s federally funded Healthy Marriage Demonstration Grant. First Things First is an award-winning not-for-profit dedicated to strengthening families in Hamilton County, Tennessee through relationship education, collaboration and mobilization.
First Things First relationship educationWhat: Through its HHS-ACF grant, First Things First collaborates with community organizations and businesses to implement workshops that encourage and support healthy relationships. These relationship classes are for married couples, teens, non-married expectant parents, engaged couples, and singles, as well as married couples in distress.

  • First Things First offers a variety of marriage and relationship education programs. Classes are different lengths for different audiences. When including a module on budgeting or personal finance, they use Money Habitudes cards.
  • The Money Habitudes activity generally lasts an hour. Participants understand their own money personality an learn to talk about money.
  • In “Passionately Married,” an 8-hour course for married couples, there are four modules of two hours. Money Habitudes is used during the two-hour section on personal finance and financial literacy. Couples also do a joint budget.
  • Money Habitudes is used in the following relationship education classes:
    • Preparing for Marriage
    • Sex, Lies and Relationship Drama
    • Secrets to Lasting
    • How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk/Jerkette
  • Classes and teaching methodologies are drawn from a number of relationship curricula, including the Dibble Institute’s Connections: Dating and Emotions, PREP, Couple Communication, and Family Wellness. First Things First customizes much of its relationship education content from these programs. Money Habitudes is added to these marriage and relationship programs as a relationship-and-finances module.


  • “When I went through evaluations from our independent evaluator and looked at the progress of learning in the area of budgeting and finances, the teen classes were always about double the knowledge level of the adults. So I wondered what the difference was – and the difference was that the teens were using the Money Habitudes cards! From that, I made the decision that Money Habitudes would become the standard budgeting and finance piece we’d use in every class,” says Gunn. (The Ochs Research Center surveyed 3,000 high school student participants over a six-month time period. The teen program combined Money Habitudes and Dibble’s Connections. The study found that 89.6% of participants gained budgeting and financing skills and 95.0% said they gained communications skills.)
  • First Things First’s educators are not “financial gurus” says Gunn, and need a way to introduce finances in a fun, non-threatening way before helping couples with the actual numbers and budgeting process. “What I like about Money Habitudes is that even though we are teaching about budgeting and finances, it’s more about your attitude than just making a budget,” she says.

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.

  • 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.


  • 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.”

Couples counseling meets financial counseling

The Issue: How to get counseling clients to talk about money issues in a constructive, nonjudgmental manner; blending financial counseling and couples counseling.
Ben Vos, couples counseling in Brentwood, TNWho: Ben Vos, LPC, is a therapist in Brentwood, TN. He works with individuals, couples and families. Vos has developed a specialty in substance abuse and addiction issues. Much of his couples counseling is with couples who are remarried or are contemplating remarriage. In addition, he works with an organization that offers free counseling services to veterans, active duty military and their families.

Combining financial counseling and couples counseling

“Money is an influencing factor in everything,” says Vos, who notes that studies show that money is the most common cause of couples’ fights and, ultimately, divorce.
As of late, Vos believes that the economy causes couples more financial stress. This might be from unemployment or from a lack of savings. “Couples are coming in right now with a lot of shattered dreams,” says Vos. In addition, couples with addiction issues often have financial issues: the cost of addiction, missed wages, and resultant hoarding or keeping money secrets.

Dealing with financial issues in marriage counseling: money values

Vos usually starts couples counseling by doing a genogram to better understand clients’ backgrounds. This discussion touches on the socioeconomic status of their family of origin. While Vos also finds it helpful to do a budget in couples counseling, it has its limits.
“The traditional way I’d have the money conversation is just by pulling out the budget and going line by line and item by item. But then it turns into an accounting exercise. Really the issue is not so much about the numbers or the math. The math can work itself out. The issue where the conflict is taking place is about the values,” says Vos of blending financial counseling.
Often the challenge in couples counseling is to help one person see the other’s point of view. “They’re going to focus on who’s right and who’s wrong and when that happens, it’s really toxic for a relationship. It’s no longer focused on solving problems and much more about winning arguments.”
“I found it’s really helpful to get couples to start having a different kind of conversation about money that’s much more about understanding their values, what’s important to them – and that doesn’t have one right answer,” says Vos.

Money Habitudes in couples counseling and financial counseling

Vos uses a variety of methods in couples counseling “so they’re not just sitting on a couch talking.” This includes getting couples to move around the room, role-playing and drawing. The hands-on Money Habitudes cards not only make couples counseling sessions more engaging, but they also change the dynamic of the money conversation.
“I use Money Habitudes cards to help couples begin that important money conversation, whether they’re just beginning a relationship and are learning about their values as a couple, or whether they been married for thirty years and they’re just trying to figure out how to communicate about these things in a way that’s going to be productive,” says Vos.
Vos sees the cards as helping with the following with respect to financial counseling:

  • Getting away from right versus wrong: “Couples often think that their issue is a money issue, like, ‘If only we had more of it’ or ‘If only we managed it better.’ When in reality, it’s much more about the feelings underneath. Money Habitudes really helps couples to understand each other and those feelings rather than getting into a ‘who’s right and who’s wrong’ conversation. It’s really nice when you watch couples start to understand and appreciate how they balance one another, rather than getting upset because they don’t see things the same way.”
  • Augmenting traditional financial fixes: “There are lots of good things out there if couples are just looking to do things like eliminate debt or try to apply for a better job or whatever. But what I think Money Habitudes does is give couples a way to have conversations that are going to help them be ok, no matter what the circumstances are because they have a deeper understanding of their relationship and what’s important.”

“Money Habitudes is just such an enriching experience because it takes some of the pressure off that couples feel talking about these sensitive issues,” says Vos.

Financial Life Skills for Teen Parents

Catholic Charities teaching life skillsThe Issue: How to get single teen parents to better understand money messages and financial wants and needs in an engaging atmosphere.
Who: Rebecca Phipps, LPC, professional counselor and coordinator of the Between Us program at Catholic Charities Oregon. It operates under the national Healthy Marriage Initiative.
What: Phipps teaches life skills and financial literacy mainly to single teen mothers as well as some single teen fathers. She also teaches engaged and married couples and parents of teens in addition to some private counseling. Phipps teaches at public high schools, maternity homes and early college high schools. The teen program focuses on:

  • Maturity Issues, What I Value
  • Infatuation and Attraction
  • Communication Between You and Me
  • What’s Love?
  • Peer Pressure: More Subtle than You Think
  • Safe Relationships/Cycle of Abuse
  • Basic Banking


  • Phipps uses Money Habitudes cards with teens, adults and young mothers when she covers communication, messaging, values and money.
  • She starts by introducing students to general messages they get from the media – largely by showing magazine advertisements – and discussing what they mean and how we internalize them.
  • After this introductory exercise, she next has each participant sort his or her own deck of Money Habitudes cards. After having everyone go through the money personality self-analysis step, she includes some group discussion about the results.
  • She devotes about 20 minutes of the life skills class to doing the financial card sorting activity. Classes are 1-2 hours, depending on the venue.
  • Phipps uses her own handout for the exercise. It asks participants how many cards they identified with in each Money Habitudes category and asks additional questions such as, “What Money Habitudes types show up when you’re feeling anxiety?”
  • This leads to a discussion about what money messages we received growing up and what money messages we will give our children – consciously or unconsciously. “It’s really good because it gets them to ask, ‘What am I actually teaching my child? What are my Money Habitudes and what are the messages I’m sending to my child about handling money? And what do I need to look at for myself?'” says Phipps.
  • Later in the class, she uses large sheets of paper to gather ideas from the group on wants-versus-needs and myths and facts about credit. “Wants and needs is really huge for a new parent. And the class really makes them think about it, and they start to share about it,” says Phipps.
  • With longer classes, the section on values and money messages transitions to budgeting. Phipps uses a special budget worksheet geared for teen mothers. For example, it includes income categories for TANF, SNAP food stamps, etc. The budget also highlights expenses that teens may not be aware of because they have not yet lived on their own. These may include costs like doing laundry.
  • To continue the money values discussion, Phipps also uses an activity she calls Vbay, a values auction. Students get to bid on items like higher education while sacrificing other items like manicures with limited dollars.


  • To get teens and adults involved and interested in the class. “Me, personally, I like activities so I always introduce them into whatever I’m doing. I’ve seen it done and because they engage people, they remember,” says Phipps.
  • As a way to make the discussion about financial wants and needs more personally relevant. “What happens is that they may already know they’re Spontaneous and they start thinking, ‘I need to make changes! I can’t just get a manicure!’ But if you only have a hundred dollars, you see how you need to buy diapers and something else, you can’t buy everything you want. In that session, they realize that life’s different now,” says Phipps.
  • Unlike other financial education exercises, Money Habitudes is nonjudgmental. “I like the classification of the Money Habitudes cards. I think it helps people see the positives and the challenges, to think, ‘I’m not bad and I’m not good; I just have to think about it.’ It gets them involved because they’re looking at themselves as they’re doing the cards; they’re  doing some good self-examination. It’s like a mirror that shows someone what they’re like and they say, “I am really like that. Yeah, I am,'” says Phipps.

Financial Education and Relationship Education in Prisons and Inmate Reentry Programs

Who: Ronald Brewer, Director of Education, People of Principle, based in Midland, TX.
What: Marriages are subject to a variety of stresses. Few are greater than having one spouse incarcerated. It is in this prison environment that People of Principle works to strengthen marriages. Operating under a federal grant for Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood from the Administration for Children and Families, People of Principle provides relationship skills training for inmates through its Fathers Are Forever (FAF) Project. The project covers 13 prisons in Texas and New Mexico, along with 36 town parole boards. FAF teaches parenting skills, promotes two-parent families, and seeks to eliminate family violence.
Who: The ACF grant covers working with married or unmarried incarcerated men who have children. Inmates attend the relationship classes with a wife or partner. Brewer notes that many of the inmates have very limited educations; the program assumes a 4th-grade reading level.

  • Brewer says that the People of Principle reentry program is based on doing “power seminars” where a year of relationship education is typically done in 8-12 hours over two days.
  • The healthy marriage program is built around the Within Our Reach curriculum, designed by PREP, Inc. and based on the Speaker-Listener Technique.
  • Classes are generally taught to groups of 6-12 couples.
  • The relationship classes include anger management, preventing family violence, using  negotiated agreements to govern family life, skills-based parenting, and positive parent practices.
  • Additional marriage and fatherhood modules include one on Transactional Analysis, one using Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages and two that Brewer developed called Words of the Heart and The Institutionalized Mind. The reentry program also includes a Money Habitudes module for personal finance.
  • “We felt like one of the weaknesses of our program was the lack of financial counseling,” says Brewer. Using the hands-on Money Habitudes program as a short lesson helps inmates understand their spending and saving patterns but also helps them better understand and interact with a spouse or partner when it comes to money.
  • Traditionally the number one cause of arguments for couples, money is an especially important topic for prisoner reentry into society. The Money Habitudes-based financial module has proven successful because it is simple, understandable, fun and non-threatening.
  • Although the Money Habitudes cards are written at a basic reading level, facilitators may still read the lifestyle statements to participants with low literacy levels. The brief card format is easier and more engaging to use than a worksheet or book.
  • Recognizing that they have very little time to work with prisoners, People of Principle sees the FAF program as a way to open dialogue and spur participants to seek out more information and understanding on their own for all topics – which they do, says Brewer.

Why and Outcomes:

  • The reentry program’s goal has two interdependent parts: to reduce recidivism rates and to preserve and strengthen inmates’ relationships.
  • Brewer says they look at four elements that will keep a marriage together: education, faith, family, and having a job. FAF addresses these issues but does not do job placement; it does, however, address the economic component of stable marriages by including financial education.
  • Because so much of the FAF program deals with understanding one’s partner, Money Habitudes is a natural fit. Used more in the context of relationships and conflict resolution (versus traditional financial literacy), it helps individuals better understand themselves when it comes to how and why they spend and save – and what their attitudes and values are around money. But it also helps them better understand and respect how their partner sees money, thereby promoting healthier discussions. Brewer recalls that participants would say, “This is exactly the problem we were having. It’s crazy that we have to go to prison to learn how to deal with it!”
  • “What’s great about Money Habitudes is the tactile manipulation. That’s very important with people who are incarcerated. We try to use as little of the lecturer-fill-in-the-blank stuff as we can. We have learned that, especially in the prison population, participatory education is far superior to lecture style.”
  •  “We had nothing but positive results. In fact, we never had a complaint and inmates are notorious for complaining when they don’t like something. Even the guards would eat up the Money Habitudes exercise. They’d ask question after question whenever we had a break so it was clear they were interested even though they weren’t actually participating!” says Brewer.
  • After working with 300 couples, the program had only seen six divorces.

Talking About Money in Continuing Education Workshops

Who: Kelly Chicas, a Board Certified, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (at Albuquerque Family Counseling) and Lisa Johnson, PhD, LMFT in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Situation: Workshops for community agencies and general audiences to provide educational information and introduce therapists in a non-threatening setting.
What: “The Wealth Within: Mastering Your Money Personality” was held at the University of New Mexico. This is an example of a two-session community workshop offered to the public. Course description: Other money courses teach budgeting and planning, but do not examine the WHY of your personal spending habits and attitudes. This class will help you to identify and examine your money personality – characteristics that motivate your spending patterns, goals, choices and priorities. You will understand your core financial story, where your specific behaviors come from, and what to do about the behaviors that are keeping you from financial success. This class will provide you with specific, goal-oriented changes you can use immediately that will change your behavior with money.
Who: Individuals and couples in the community who would not normally be coming in for therapy but can benefit from this type of education on money issues.

  • To reach people who would not normally be coming for therapy and help them begin addressing money issues through a quick and information educational presentation about habits and attitudes related to money.


  • Individuals and couples attend a two-night continuing education class (3 hours) offered through the Continuing Education Program at the UNM.
  • Class I: Attendees sort through the Money Habitudes statement cards, interpret the results, identify their dominant Habitude and set personal goals based on their findings.
  • Homework: Attendees (1) answer discussion questions chosen from the Professional Guide to apply how their Habitudes affect them and (2) consider their family of origin and answer if they see any similarities between their Habitudes and those of their family.
  • Class II: The class is breaks into small groups based on dominant Money Habitudes types to talk about common challenges with others like them and share solutions.
  • Note: When they do workshops on Money and Relationships Money Habitudes is used as the introductory activity.


  • “They enjoyed opening up after hearing others’ stories. They felt they were not the ‘only one’ to have the experience.”
  • Individuals and couples gained important insights from doing the cards, completing the homework assignment and sharing their stories and suggestions with each other.
  • Because attendees wanted to keep the cards to use in the future, either on their own or with a partner, in the future the cost of the cards will be added to the course’s material fee.

Observations and Comments:
Although homework is rarely well received I had a good response and they really enjoyed it [the assignment.] For people who’ve never really looked at this aspect of money – or just always wondered ‘Why am I like this?’ – there was a lot of really good awareness and introspection that came out.
A budget is good but it’s just like going on a diet. If you don’t understand why [you’re gaining weight or experiencing health problems], then going on a diet is kind of a Band-Aid … The value behind the Money Habitudes cards is identifying the why. The behaviors and the questions on the statement cards are so applicable to most couples’ situations they discover how they spend, save and invest and why they have the thoughts they do behind their money behaviors.

Money Habitudes Helps Save Marriages from Divorce

Contact: Kent Thompson, Financial Program Manager with Army Community Service, Camp Ederle, U.S. Army Garrison, Vicenza, Italy
Situation: A comprehensive, six-hour course for couples intending to divorce called Military + Divorce created by the Association of Financial Counseling, Planning and Education (AFCPE). Classes ranged from one to five couples and are intended to provide the information so couples can settle their finances as part of the impending divorce. The course is not intended to help couples work out their differences and back away from divorce.
Who: Divorcing couples in the U.S. Army, many who did not want to be at this class.

  • To create a non-threatening and non-judgmental judgmental environment where couples would let down their guard, open up and talk more freely since money and divorce are two notoriously uncomfortable topics to discuss in private, let alone in a class situation.
  • Although the Military + Divorce course was supposed to just tackle the facts, Thompson noticed that when the facts were raised, they sparked the same disagreements, anger and anxiety that led the couples to seek a divorce in the first place making a difficult situation more difficult.


  • To supplement the standard AFCPE curriculum instead of starting by talking about budgeting, the Money Habitudes Solitaire game was used as an initial class activity with the couples. Each couple individually did the solitaire game and then talked about it as a couple.
  • After using the cards couples discovered weak spots between them and Thompson then used those cues to lay out the list of other classes offered.


  • The cards did indeed help break down the barriers of resentment and misunderstanding, helping the divorcing couples see their partner’s perspective.
  • The cards helped to open each other’s eyes.
  • Once Thompson found that couples could work with each other on the money topic, he could then offer them suggestions to strengthen their finances-and, in turn, their marriage. “At the sessions where we did Money Habitudes cards, it opened the door to those other classes.”
  • With the cards and the larger class, couples discovered individual challenges with money as well as weak spots between them.

Unexpected Outcome

  • Reaching a common understanding of their money problems provided the couples with a foundation to look at their larger relationship.
  • In the end, having better understood each other and their disagreements, most of the divorcing couples decided to turn away from divorce and make the marriage work.

Observations and Comments:
I used the cards for every one of those Money + Divorce sessions I had and, of all the classes I taught, I only had two couples say that they were still going to get a divorce anyway. All the other couples decided they didn’t need to get a divorce.
From a financial counselor aspect, the first issue that always comes up, is, ‘Well, my partner doesn’t know how to handle money anyway!’ And so I thought, ‘If every partner is saying that about their partner, then let’s find out who really does control the money and how well do they do it and what are their attitudes about money?’ And so the cards fit in perfectly with that scheme.
The cool thing about the cards is: Here are things that might be challenges for you and here’s how you can overcome them. And those couples looked at that and actually started working at it, saying, ‘The cards are right—(even) if perhaps my spouse is not—and I can probably work on that.’
The money issue was the biggest issue and it was the biggest reason for the divorce for all of those other couples and they decided, ‘You know what? This is overcome-able stuff. We don’t have to get a divorce because we’re not comfortable with the money situation.
The cards were a nice augmentation to the [AFCPE] class. A lot of times, it really did open their eyes. When you’ve got a husband and wife sitting there and neither one of them can understand why the other one has the money attitude that they have, or why they do what they do with their money, to them, they think it’s just a point of anger or a point of contention.
If you could do this with couples, particularly if they’re having money issues before they deploy, and just say, ‘Let’s just see what each of your attitudes is,’ then, before they deploy, we can address these things.