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New Financial Program Helps Struggling Families

Kendra Zamojski
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
Walton County

University of Florida IFAS Extension is launching the Florida Master Money Mentor Program, a new statewide program to help Floridians get free one-on-one help with their finances.  Funded in part by Bank of America, the goal of the program is to increase financial knowledge and to promote positive financial behaviors.

Volunteers complete an intensive Master Money Mentor training course.  The volunteers are then matched with people in their local communities.  Money Mentors help individuals track spending, create spending and savings plans, understand credit, and plan for the future.  “We’re not calling this the Master Budgeteer Program, but that’s really kind of what we’re doing,” says Dr. Michael Gutter, UF/IFAS Assistant Professor and Family Financial Management Specialist. “We’re thrilled about being able to do this, because so many families need this help.”

Currently, more than 150 volunteers located in approximately 20 counties throughout Florida are helping more than 170 people increase savings and reduce debt.  In the Northwest District, counties with Master Money Mentors include: Bay, Holmes, Okaloosa, Walton, and Washington.

The program targets low- to moderate-income families — especially those behind in mortgage payments or struggling to get beyond living paycheck-to-paycheck.  According to Dr. Gutter, the Master Money Mentor program gives families a one-on-one adviser who will go beyond just doling out conceptual advice.  Volunteer mentors must make a long-term commitment to the families they help.  Mentors will not give investment advice but steer families to information that will help guide them.

While every family’s financial picture will be different, Dr. Gutter says he expects Money Mentors to help in three important areas: assisting families as they make spending and savings plans, helping them analyze their credit behavior and limit debt, and pushing families to be proactive with lenders when problems arise.  “Getting a sense of control is critical for families who don’t have a lot of money,” Gutter explains.  “The harder today is, the more important it is to know tomorrow is going to be better.”

For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Living Well in the Panhandle

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2012/02/28/new-financial-program-helps-struggling-families/