Winter 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 4 // Feature Articles // 4FEA4

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So You're Planning a Money Management Prograram

What to do to reach more people.

Victoria E. Steinfelt
Extension Agent-Home Economics
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Arizona - Yuma County

Donna R. Iams
Assistant Professor, Consumer Studies
School of Family and Consumer Resources
University of Arizona - Tucson

Families are finding it hard to stretch their dollars to meet the budget. Rapidly escalating prices, particularly for food, energy, and shelter, have complicated the process of household financial management.

During the past four years, an economic cycle of inflation, recession, and economic recovery has occurred. Some economists predict the cycle is about to start again. Understanding that such cycles will continue, the National Extension Service Home Economics' goals have indicated that successful household financial management is needed for families to maintain or enhance economic stability.1 This requires families to have information and skills involved in understanding household budgeting, use of credit, and financial decision making.

Yuma County (Arizona) Extension, like many Extension offices, has the expertise to meet the household financial management (HFM) educational needs of families, but resources have been limited. Therefore,. we decided to study how to balance the HFM needs of families with the available Extension resources.

The study examined the following questions:

  1. Of the educational methods used to teach HFM, which are most preferred and least preferred by families?

  2. When families need HFM information, what sources do they generally use for help?

  3. If families aren't using Extension as a source of HFM, what prevents them from doing so?

The Study

Results of this study are based on a random sample of the general population of Yuma, Arizona. During the spring of 1983, a mail survey was conducted using Dillman's Total Design Method.2 An 82% return rate was realized with a 58% usable rate (n -122). The respondents were between the ages of 30 and 64, with incomes from $10,000 to $20,000, and having some college education. Thirty-eight percent of the households had children.

Since people learn by a variety of educational methods, we gave the respondents a list of those most commonly used by Extension. They ranked the methods according to those least preferred and most preferred. The educational method most often preferred was a type of individualized learning experience. Reading a pamphlet was ranked first by 39% of the respondents followed by reading newsletters (17%) and taking a correspondence course (17%). Thirty-four percent of the respondents didn't like group meetings and another 22% didn't like radio programs as ways to receive HFM information (see Figure 1).

figure 1

To determine what sources of HFM information the respondents preferred, a list of sources was given and they were asked to rate each source.3 The results indicate that preferred sources in descending order were: financial counselors (27%), accountants (19%), bankers (17%), and family members (15%). The remaining 22% were divided among other various sources with Extension receiving only 9%.

Next, in a two-part question, respondents were asked to give their first and second reasons why they hadn't contacted Yuma County Extension for HFM information. The first reason given by 57% of the respondents was that they didn't know Extension provided HFM information. Another 22% stated they didn't know Extension existed before receiving the survey. Therefore, the primary reason for not contacting Extension was that respondents didn't know to ask for such service.

In addition to lack of knowledge about Extension and its HFM information, a second part of the question identified two more reasons why respondents weren't contacting Extension. Twenty-five percent of the respondents weren't sure that Extension was capable of providing HFM information and 20% believed that confidentiality of a househqld's financial situation might not be maintained.

Implementation of the Findings

Preferred Sources

The results of this study clearly indicate that the traditional group meetings wouldn't be appropriate for disseminating H FM information in Yuma County. Individualized learning methods, such as newsletters, correspondence courses, and pamphlets would be the best use of Extension's limited resources. Since educational levels differ among the population, some clientele may not benefit from written information. Individual counseling could provide an alternative to written information and thus add depth to a county Extension HFM program.

Preferred sources identified by the respondents also indicate that individual financial counseling should be seriously considered when a HFM program. This would be especially important in communities where individual counseling isn't available from any other source.

Since human resources are usually limited in county Extension offices, the Extension agent planning to provide individual financial counseling may need to explore ways to expand these resources. One way would be to recruit volunteers from the financial community to do the financial counseling. Also, Extension agents might work with colleges and universities, which are training students in financial counseling, to provide internships or field experiences for these students. Still another method may be to train Master Money Managers similar to Master Gardeners, Master Canners, or Master Sewers.4

Confidentiality Issues

If an HFM program is offered that requires clientele to discuss household financial situations, then Extension must keep this information confidential. This means that a confidential setting must be available. For example, an office that's soundproof and private with locked filing cabinets would be necessary. In addition, the Extension agent, student, or volunteer providing the H FM counseling would need to indicate that the client's household financial situation would be kept confidential.


A second area of concern identified in the study was the respondents' lack of knowledge of the availability of HFM information from Extension. A mass media campaign should be launched to let the public know that Extension offers HFM information.

As a result of this study, one form of mass media has already been used in Yuma. A newspaper article was written about HFM. The response to the article included: 11 requests for a pamphlet on HFM, 4 phone calls asking for more personalized HFM information, and 1 request for individual financial counseling. This response is much better than two or three people attending a group meeting on HFM.

Besides telling the public that HFM information is available from Extension, it's important to project the image that Extension is capable of providing accurate and reliable HFM information. This could be done by organizing an HFM advisory committee. Members could include individuals in the financial community-accountants, bankers, attorneys, and financial counselors. Local individuals who work with families, such as clergymen and social workers, should also be involved on the committee. The Extension agent would work closely with this group to plan and implement an HFM program. Once this group is convinced that Extension can provide an HFM program, the group members could act as spokespeople in the community for the program.


Families need information and skills to maintain economic stability. Extension has the expertise to meet these needs, but resources are limited. The results of this study indicate that individualized learning experiences should be used to provide HFM information. Publicity about HFM programs as well as projecting an image of an accurate and reliable source of HFM is important.


  1. United States Department of Agriculture, A Comprehensive National Plan for New Initiatives in Home Economics Research, Extension and Higher Education (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, 1981).
  2. D. A. Dillman, Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1978).
  3. List of sources included: family member, friend, clergyman, accountant, banker, Extension home economist, social worker, Arizona Western College home economist, and financial counselor.
  4. The Master programs involve recruiting volunteers and providing extensive training. The volunteers then commit a certain number of hours to Extension in return for the training they receive.