Free Government Program Can Help You Master Your Finances

Banking, Borrowing, Credit Cards, Credit Rating, Home Purchase Loan, Investing & Retiring, Retirement

You’re never too old to learn new things – including better money management practices. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) agrees.

To address financial literacy concerns, the FDIC created the Money Smart teaching program in 2001 to help educators and financial institutions increase consumer understanding of basic financial systems work and how to use them to stay financially healthy.

The Money Smart for Adults program is expanding to include more topics. According to the FDIC website, the updated Money Smart for Adults program is set to begin in fall 2018.

The updated program contains eleven separate modules that take one to two hours of time per module. Topics include how banking services work, the basics of credit and credit histories, how to use credit cards responsibly, consumer rights, how checking accounts work, why you should save, borrowing/home ownership concepts, and financial recovery approaches.

Modules are designed for use in classroom settings as well as individual online learning. Instructor-led versions of the program are available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, Hindi, and Haitian Creole. Online versions are available in English and Spanish. Large-print and Braille versions are also available for the visually impaired.

Money Smart can be set up in a text or audio mode, depending on the needs of specific classes/learners. The modules include follow-up questions to test your learning progress. Hints are available if needed via “Penny Cash,” your guide through the modules.

If you miss a question, you get a second chance to answer the question – and once you get 75% correct on any module, you can print out a certificate of completion to provide extra motivation for future modules.

Learning modules aren’t sequential – you can skip straight to a topic of particular interest.

The Money Smart program has a proven track record. According to a three-part survey conducted by the FDIC in 2007, respondents who took Money Smart courses on checking/savings, credit, and budgeting showed significant improvements in financial confidence and behaviors after completing the course – and those improvements were still present in follow-up surveys six to twelve months later.

Of the participants not using a budget or spending plan at the end of the class, 61% were using a plan during the follow-up survey – while a vast majority (95%) of participants who used a budget at the end of the class were still using one.

Over one-third (37%) of participants without a savings account had opened one before the follow-up survey was taken. Similarly, 43% of those without a checking account had opened one according to the follow-up survey. Almost one-quarter (22%) switched accounts from one bank to another, having gained the confidence to comparison shop.

Do you have more specific financial concerns? The Money Smart program has separate programs for different demographics (such as older adults or small business owners). These programs work in a similar fashion but are tailored to the specific needs of the relevant group.

Do you get all your information through podcasts these days? You’re in luck – the Money Smart Podcast Network covers the basics of banking, checking accounts, savings and investing, and tips on borrowing money wisely.

If you need help managing your money, the Money Smart program provides a free learning option – and if you can’t access the system or need help understanding the material, check with local financial institutions or learning centers to see where the class is offered.

Here’s the first lesson of better money management – why pay for financial education classes when you can get them for free?

You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips.

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