The past few years have brought financial challenges to many people throughout the commonwealth. One in every nine Virginians lives at or below the poverty level and the current economic climate has only emphasized the need for additional financial education.
Virginia Cooperative Extension has taken steps to help fill this need through its Master Financial Education Volunteer Program. The MFEV program focuses on helping families build their financial capability through classes on topics such as managing money, planning for home ownership, getting out of debt, retirement planning, and preventing identity theft. The program also provides one-on-one mentoring.
Master Financial Education Volunteers receive a minimum of 20 hours of classroom instruction and, in return, commit to contribute an additional 40 hours of service to the community in the 12 months following training.
Volunteer educators partner with local Extension agents to provide individual counseling sessions; assist at Reality Store, Kids Marketplace, and poverty simulations; teach money management workshops to youth; and lead adult financial management classes.
Tom Miller, a volunteer from Harrisonburg, enjoys helping others and making clients aware that there are things they can do to improve their financial situations.
“Often clients feel desperate about their situations. As a financial mentor, I don’t tell them what to do, but provide them information about options from which they can choose. I focus on what they can do differently from this point forward,” said Miller. “I’ve benefited from the information I learned and understand how others can benefit as well.”
In 2012, agents trained 73 new volunteers, who contributed more than 200 hours of service and helped more than 2,000 individuals improve their financial skills.
“The Master Financial Education Volunteer Program has helped to expand Extension’s capacity to reach more people and helped secure healthy financial futures for Virginia’s families,” said Brian Calhoun, associate director for family and consumer sciences.