Minn. Commerce Commissioner highlights financial education partnership with credit unions

ST. PAUL, MN (May 7, 2015) — Audrey is a young working mom in Minnesota who found herself living from paycheck to paycheck, weighed down by housing and childcare expenses as well as student loans and credit card debt.

Having grown up seeing her parents struggle through bankruptcy, she knew she didn’t want that to happen to her.

This year Audrey was able to get help preparing her tax returns from Prepare + Prosper, a nonprofit that offers free tax and financial services so low- and moderate-income Minnesotans can improve their financial well-being.

For the first time, Audrey resolved to save most of her tax refund by setting aside money in a rainy-day fund to cover unexpected expenses. Through Prepare + Prosper, Audrey also has a mentor who now coaches her on budgeting priorities and healthy financial habits.

Audrey’s story is an inspiring example of someone who is equipping herself with the skills to navigate the challenging crosscurrents of today’s financial world.

The recent financial crisis and Great Recession highlighted the risks that all of us face in today’s economy, while also revealing the financial fragility of many middle-class Americans.

Minnesotans are not immune. According to a 2012 state-by-state survey of financial capability:

  • 55 percent of Minnesotans said they lacked an emergency fund to cover expenses for three months in case of sickness or job loss.
  • 32 percent made only minimum monthly payments on their credit cards rather than paying their bills in full.
  • 27 percent reported using expensive non-bank borrowing methods such as payday loans and auto title loans.

When people are hobbled by costly financial problems, they become even more vulnerable to scams and predatory schemes that promise easy money but only push them deeper underwater.

While there will always be risks in the financial marketplace, one of the best ways people can protect themselves is with stronger financial education and capability.

Minnesota is a national leader in financial literacy education, with innovative partnerships involving schools, nonprofits, financial institutions, faith communities and government.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has joined forces to promote a financial toolkit called Your Money, Your Goals. Across Minnesota, 500 front-line social service staff are being trained to use this toolkit to help their low-income clients with strategies to budget daily expenses, manage debt and avoid financial tricks and traps.

Our partners include the University of Minnesota Extension Service, the Minnesota Credit Union Network as well as local, state and federal agencies.

At the annual Minnesota Financial Capability Roundtable on April 28, 10 organizations, including Prepare + Prosper, told how they are making a positive difference in the lives of Minnesotans by helping them secure a better future for themselves, one financial choice at a time.

The bottom line is clear.

As people like Audrey make better, more informed decisions about their money, they discover that the full benefit goes beyond dollars and cents. They also gain a deeper sense of personal freedom, security and well-being.  And that, of course, is priceless.

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