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Cascade: No. 64, Winter 2007 — Special Issue: Financial Literacy

A School About Money for Adults

Over 3,000 Delaware residents took more than 500 classes in 2006 on a wide range of personal finance subjects from 90 volunteer instructors in the Delaware Money School.

The instructors, who work in the private, nonprofit, and government sectors, teach classes on debt management, financial planning for college and retirement, homeownership, insurance, investing, long-term care, small business development, and other topics. The classes range in length from one to eight hours and are offered weekend evenings, lunchtime, and Saturdays at sites throughout Delaware.

Jack Markell, Delaware state treasurer, founded the Delaware Money School in 1999 and is president of the board of directors of the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute (DFLI), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that oversees the school. The school was cited as part of an innovations award to the state from the Council of State Governments in 2002.

Theresa A. Hasson, vice president and CRA officer with Citicorp Trust Bank, FSB, in Wilmington, said the school is “a model one-stop shop” with classes scheduled well in advance of the events and organized by county, date, and subject on DFLI’s website and newsletter. Speakers, Hasson said, may not solicit business for their employers in the classes, which are offered without charge to participants.

Ronni Cohen, DFLI’s executive director since 2002 and a former elementary school teacher, said the school “belongs to the people taking the classes; it is really a ‘community of learners.’” Hasson noted that the school “moves flexibly and quickly when participants ask for a class on a particular subject.” DFLI tracks its attendees and surveys them to identify subjects of interest.

Meanwhile, in DFLI’s From Purses to Portfolios program, about 400 women and a dozen men have spent more than 4,500 hours in Money School classes, all-day conferences, and networking events to earn Take Charge Delaware certificates, Cohen said. The certificate recognizes a level of financial knowledge sufficient for a person to take charge of their personal financial decisions.

DFLI has also experimented with cable television broadcasts and online courses. In one new effort, a tape of a lunchtime event on managing credit cards and getting out of debt was shown three times daily for a month on a local cable television channel. In addition, 67 individuals signed up for MoneyChoices, an educational program of web-based online courses sponsored by Visa U.S.A. Inc.

Cohen said that women constitute the majority of attendees at the school’s classes and conferences. “Women seek out this information,” she explained. “They’re very interested in each other’s situation and form close bonds with each other. They form a personal commitment and a sense of belonging to the Money School. Men who come to the events also become deeply involved, often serving as ‘ambassadors’ for the Money School.”

Hasson said “partnerships are critically important” in financial education and encouraged providers to work with others in nontraditional ways. She recalled that DFLI adapted for adults a Junior Achievement budgeting program designed for young people.

In other activities in 2006, DFLI worked with the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship to hold the 20th annual economics competition for third to sixth graders in problem-solving and personal-finance skills, convened an annual financial education summit for high school students, and sponsored workshops and a summer graduate institute for teachers to integrate personal finance into their curricula.

DFLI has a full-time staff of three people and is located in a community center in Claymont, Delaware. Its 2006 operating budget was $489,000. It has received substantial grants and in-kind technical support and printing services from financial institutions, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wilmington Trust, and Discover Bank.

DFLI’s board of directors includes representatives of Barclays Bank, Citigroup, Discover Bank, ING Direct Bank, FSB, JPMorgan Chase Bank USA, N.A., and the Bank of New York (Delaware). Its advisory board includes representatives from Citicorp Trust Bank, FSB, Citizens Bank, Delaware Bankers Association, JPMorgan Chase Bank USA, N.A., and Wilmington Trust Company.

For information on DFLI, contact Ronni Cohen at (302) 792-1200 or ronni@delawaremoneyschool.com; www.delawaremoneyschool.com.

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