School of Economics Taking Household Finance to the Schools

Contacts: Sarah Morehead, 978-210-1944; George Manlove, 581-3756

ORONO – UMaine’s School of Economics has revised its Financial Literacy outreach program, and is now taking it into Maine’s middle and high schools to reach younger audiences.

Graduate student Sarah Morehead, a research assistant in the School of Economics, spent the past semester teaching and counseling as many as 200 UMaine undergraduates about the psychology of economics and basic budgeting. The revised program is called Household Financial Education and is designed for students from middle school to college.

“I’ve spent this semester planning and perfecting the workshops,” Morehead says. “What I’d really like to do is open it up to any high school and do a weeklong event. High schools and middle schools are really our targets.”

Morehead’s approach is more fundamental than the previous community-based program, which presented financial workshops to audiences with a working knowledge of finance.

She says people who are uneasy about financial management need a more elementary introduction, starting with preconceived notions. Many people either love or hate money, depending on whether they successfully manage it or whether it manages them, says Morehead.

“We watch out parents fight over it. We watch people lose sleep over it. We see people with more get treated differently,” she says. “We’re constantly reading these messages from other people who tell us who we are because of money.”

Morehead explores what she calls the “psychology of money” and the “emotional hang-ups and personal values — the barriers people don’t often address.”

Helping students understand their “financial personality” leads to a more successful structure for managing household finances.

School of Economics Director George Criner says traditional community finance classes tend to be too complex for many people. Helping people understand how they are affected by money helps them better understand finances, he says.

“I think what we want to do is to help break down the psychological barriers,” Criner adds. “You can use money wisely and it can be your friend. It doesn’t have to be a source of agony and stress.”

Second-year student Darryl Ann Girardin, who attended one of Morehead’s workshops, likes Morehead’s style.

“I loved your presentation,” Girardin told Morehead after a workshop in the fall. “I have a love-hate relationship with money, and I love to spend it and I have no budget. I’d love to get my money situation under control and hear more about your views on money,”

Morehead can be reached at (978) 210-1944 for additional details about scheduling a workshop.