Teaching money management basics at the grass-roots level

Helping families manage their resources, including money, is one of the current challenges to extension home economists throughout the country. ''Most people don't like to admit that they have money problems,'' says Dr. Josephine Turner, a family economic specialist at Alabama Cooperative Extension, Auburn University. ''And those who need it most rarely turn up at professional money-management seminars.''

Dr. Turner has developed a broad-based ''Master Money Manager'' program now being used in almost 50 counties in Alabama.

In the program's first year, some 400 teaching volunteers learned about budgeting, record-keeping, and wise use of credit. They were also given basic information on taxes, savings, investments, and insurance, and impressed with the importance of confidentiality.

After earning a qualifying certificate, volunteers commit a total of 30 hours to the project for sharing what they have learned with friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

''We are finding that this neighbor-outreach program is quite successful and is reaching many people,'' Turner says.

''Our volunteers come from all segments of the community. We have bankers, ministers, schoolteachers, specialists in pensions and securities, retired professionals of all kinds, and even housewives. They teach wherever they feel comfortable and whoever asks for their help.''

Dr. Robert H. Flashman of the College of Home Economics at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, has developed a program dedicated to consumer fraud awareness. Dr. Flashman not only produced a booklet, called ''Consumer Fraud-Handbook for Prevention and Recourse,'' but also a leader's guide to go with it. ''We teach leaders in each of the counties,'' he says, ''and they, in turn, teach their extension club members, which total 36,000.''

The booklet covers the gamut of fraud, from auto purchase and repair complaints to work-at-home schemes, door-to-door sales, fraudulent business schemes, and mail-order and home-repair swindles.

''We aren't solving all the money management problems that people have,'' Dr. Turner of Alabama says, ''but we are offering, in a simple and understandable manner, some very helpful basic information.''

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