Helping families adjust to changing economic conditions
"In today's economic climate, the people in need of financial education—and their needs—are ever-changing," says Mary Jo Katras, University of Minnesota Extension family resource management educator. "Many are newly unemployed and adjusting to lower incomes for the first time in their lives."
Dollar Works 2 is Extension's financial management curriculum used by organizations nationwide because it meets the needs of families facing the challenges of living on fewer resources, job layoffs or family transitions.
The curriculum adapts to address the unique challenges of participants, such as rural families. "People who live in rural areas have unique challenges, such as availability of childcare and transportation," says Trish Olson, Extension family resource management specialist. "Dollar Works 2 encourages families to develop spending plans that meet their unique needs."
A groundbreaking, multi-state research project, "Rural Families Speak," brought the needs of rural families into focus. Jean Bauer, an Extension family resource management specialist who passed away in July, led the study, which culminated in the book "Rural Families and Work: Context and Problems." The book provides a solid foundation for understanding rural employment problems and issues, and informed the development of Dollar Works 2.
"It's a reciprocal relationship. We listen to the needs of our communities and, with our participants, create strategies to support those needs," says Katras, reflecting Extension's commitment to providing education rather than prescriptions.
"As Jean Bauer would say, we don't presume to tell people how to spend their money," Olson adds. "We provide them with the knowledge and tools to make their own best choices.'"