With so many unexpected things that seem out of control this year, it's nice to be reminded that there are still things you can control, and one of those is personal finances.
Utah State University Extension recently launched PowerPay Money Mastery, an online financial education course that provides tools and information to teach real-life money smarts. The course was designed to help participants identify their financial vision and money personality and includes proven strategies for budgeting, managing debt and saving money.
Amanda Christensen, Utah State University Extension associate professor and accredited financial counselor, is the course co-creator, along with financial colleagues Alena Johnson, USU, and Luke Erickson, University of Idaho. Christensen said the video-based modules are designed to provide participants with information that can bring financial peace of mind.
We also know that one of the top reasons couples separate is because of challenges with money.
"So much about life feels chaotic right now, and it's nice to revisit personal finance best-practices, which are completely within our control," she said. "We also know that one of the top reasons couples separate is because of challenges with money. If people are able to address these problems, no matter how long they've been married, and learn financial skills to help their specific situations, a lot of stress and unhappiness can be avoided."
When asked what was the most impactful thing about taking the course, one attendee said,
"Being able to sit down with my husband and go through the modules together and then work on the different calls to action together. We are on the same page and have the same goals when it comes to our finances, and it feels good to work together."
Christensen said the PowerPay Money Mastery course is video-based with worksheets and further resources designed to help participants take a deeper dive into the topics they need most.
"This structure is a way for people to tailor the course to their individual needs," Christensen said.
Course participant Ashley Hopkins said though she feels like she manages her money fairly well, she feels like there is always room for improvement when it comes to financial habits.
"I learned the importance of creating a 'financial why statement' that you can continually refer back to in order to stay on track with your goals. This is something I had never done before, but I plan to implement it moving forward."
Hopkins said the course takeaway for her is that it is not about how much money you have, but rather how you manage that money that determines your financial success.
Another attendee said she felt like she had a good idea of how she and her husband were doing with money, but the course gave her some more ideas and confirmed to her that they are doing ok.
"I am already looking at adjusting my budget to save more each month into a revolving savings account to pay for those irregular expenses," she said. "Doing the irregular expenses worksheet was an eye-opener. We were not saving enough to cover those expenses, and no wonder it felt like we were never getting ahead!"
Course modules include personal financial vision, money personality, tracking expenses, budgeting, managing debt, understanding credit and saving money. Bonus module topics include insurance, investing and homeownership.
Christensen and USU Extension colleagues Andrea Schmutz, Lendel Narine and Melanie Jewkes are principal investigators of a nearly $900,000 grant awarded to USU Extension this summer by the Department of Workforce Services. The Empowering Financial Wellness grant will help provide financial education throughout the state.
"We are extremely appreciative of this grant because it provides tools for low-income populations, women and educators across Utah to improve their financial wellness via online and in-person experiences," she said. "In addition, it provides fee waivers to cover the cost of the PowerPay Money Mastery course for those with significant financial need."