Money Smart Week®

By Heather Greenwell, Outreach Program Team Lead, Public Affairs, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Individuals active in the financial education field are no doubt familiar with the staggering statistics that characterize consumer financial health in the United States:

  • 28% of non-retired adults have no retirement savings or pensions
  • 44% say that they could not cover a $400 emergency expense or would have to cover it by selling something or borrowing money
  • Just over 25% of all adults are unbanked or underbanked
  • 25% of all adults report forgoing one or more types of health care in the prior year due to cost[1]

Organizations across the country devote their time and resources to understanding and addressing the symptoms and root causes of the financially tenuous situation in which many Americans find themselves. Over the past 16 years, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has strived to connect people in tenuous financial shape with organizations that can help them build financial capability and health by showcasing these resources during the annual Money Smart Week® campaign. While that’s a key purpose of Money Smart, there is valuable information for everyone.

The Money Smart Week® Campaign is a national education effort designed to help consumers of all ages and from all walks of life better manage their personal finances. The campaign is coordinated and supported through the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago which began the effort in 2002 with 40 Chicago-based organizations who constituted the Money Smart Advisory Council. From this locally oriented beginning, the campaign has grown exponentially to provide thousands of free sessions and events across the country addressing key aspects of household financial health. Money Smart Week® event information is available and searchable by state, zip code, topic or audience at https://www.moneysmartweek.org/events.

For organizations who might want to host a Money Smart Week® event, for example organizations that already hold financial counseling related seminars, they can sign up to become a Money Smart Week Partner and list their event via www.moneysmartweek.org. Many groups become partners, offering content, meeting space, facilitators and/or other resources.

This extensive growth owes to the dedicated collaboration of people at thousands of organizations across the country including financial institutions, schools, nonprofits, trade organizations, and government agencies. The Money Smart Week® campaign has also been fortunate to have the support of key National Champions, large organizations that leverage their base of members or content expertise, to increase the footprint of Money Smart Week® across the country. Our 2018 National Champions include the American Library Association (ALA), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Cooperative Extension, National Consumer Education Foundation (NCEF), Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).

New efforts for the Money Smart Week® 2018 Campaign focus on engaging youth in building healthy financial habits.

Children as young as three to five years of age are developing the basic skills and attitudes that lay the foundation for later financial well-being.[2]  The Money Smart Week® Kids Read program, piloted this year, was designed to provide a fun way for parents and caregivers to establish the building blocks of saving and goal setting through story time at a local library. Each child attending a Money Smart Week® Kids Read program will be able to take home a free copy of Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, an enlightening and pragmatic exploration of needs versus wants; adults receive a free CFPB discussion guide to reinforce the learning.

For youth in the next tier of development, middle childhood (6-12 years old), developing financial habits and norms take center stage. Although it may not always be apparent, youth in this age group form those skills and attitudes by observing how the adults in their lives spend, save, and interact with money.[3]  For the last several years, groups of Money Smart Week® Partner organizations and planning teams have sponsored local Money Smart Week Kid competitions. The goal of these competitions is to engage students in dialogue with parents and guardians, encourage critical thinking, and opportunities to solve real-life financial issues.

Money Smart Week® programs shift to an online format for youth in adolescence and early adulthood in order to meet these young consumers where they are, and to help them practice money skills and decision-making. For high school aged youth, Money Smart Cache! is an online game where players move their avatars through a route of obstacles and learn important financial lessons along the way. College students can engage in GeoCache for College Cash, a virtual scavenger hunt across campus using their mobile device. This virtual quest features personal finance information that every student should know.

[1] Federal Reserve Board. (2017, June 14). Survey of Household Economics and Decision-making. https://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerscommunities/shed.htm
[2] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Resources for Parents and Caregivers. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/money-as-you-grow/
[3] Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2016, September 7). Four Strategies to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability. https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/four-strategies-help-youth-achieve-financial-capability/
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