Montana State University

MSU Extension awarded grant to expand free Web series on adult financial education

September 14, 2015 -- MSU News Service

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This fall Montana State University Extension will again offer Solid Finances, a Web-based adult financial education series that is free and open to the public.

Now in its fifth year of existence, Solid Finances has had a successful history across Montana and was recently awarded a $170,000 grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, an organization whose mission is to provide underserved Americans with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. This marks the fourth time in five years the FINRA Foundation has supported an MSU program with grant funding; two previous grants helped develop, deliver and expand the Solid Finances program.

This year’s series will be expanded to three states and will be jointly sponsored by MSU Extension, University of Idaho Extension and South Dakota State University Extension. The program series will include sessions on money management, home buying, retirement planning, student loans, identity theft and estate planning and will feature 10 speakers from the three universities. 

According to Joel Schumacher, MSU Extension economics associate specialist, financial education opportunities in rural areas are often limited. Schumacher said the Solid Finances program model has successfully overcome challenges by combining distance-learning technology with opportunities for participant interaction. Last year more than 35 people attended each of the 17 sessions offered, and a larger number of people viewed the archived recordings, Schumacher said. Those figures are expected to climb with the three-state expansion.

Schumacher said the program has grown over the years, in part due to the series’ pertinent content.

“I couldn’t have imagined that each week dozens of people would give up their lunch hour to learn about estate planning, retirement, money management and investor awareness,” Schumacher said. “The growth of Solid Finances from an idea to a multi-state partnership has been very rewarding due to positive impact the series has had on its participants.”

Gerri Walsh, president of the FINRA Foundation, said the program this year is supported by multiple universities to reach rural residents.

“We are proud to support Montana State University and its partners as they expand the Solid Finances program in a three-state region,” Walsh said. “This proven program combines the great strengths of both the Cooperative Extension Service and public libraries to provide financial and investor education that reaches hard-working rural Americans.”

The FINRA Foundation has also provided support in the past for MSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics Assistant Professor Carly Urban’s research examining the effectiveness of state level financial education mandates across the country. Urban’s research has been covered by TIME, New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal. Montana does not require financial education in public high schools.

The first session of the series, “Saving Money: Finding Spending Leaks,” will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 12:05-12:55 p.m. To register for the online session, please visit www.msuextension.org/solidfinances/. The first webinar in the series will feature speakers Carrie Johnson from South Dakota State University and Nancy Porter and Luke Erickson from the University of Idaho.

For a complete schedule of the series, visit

www.msuextension.org/solidfinances/webinarschedule.html.  

Contact: Joel Schumacher, jschumacher@montana.edu or (406) 994-6637