Addressing financial security in our community

Originally published in the Kenosha News

By Health and Well-being Educator, Mary Metten

I’m new here. Starting a job comes with all sorts of new things: new culture at work, new people, new skills to learn, new day-to-day schedule, etc.

All of those new things I was expecting and planning for.

One aspect of the new job was something I had not given any thought to: For the first time in my life I am getting paid once a month. During casual conversation with family and friends about my exciting new job and things to come, I found myself also saying, “And I’ll get paid once a month. Crazy!”

As I am becoming acclimated to my role in Kenosha County, I am learning a lot about financial needs of community members. Financial security, or insecurity, is something that affects people at every stage of life. The notion “money makes the world go round” rings true when we think about housing, food, education, medical care, transportation, and the list goes on and on.

Getting to the point of feeling financially secure can be especially intimidating if it was not something you grew up seeing or were not taught, since so much learning starts and is nurtured at home.

Even if conversations specifically about money are not happening in a household, children are watching and learning about their caregiver’s relationship with money and spending. It is important to not overlook a young child’s ability to learn skills related to finances and building positive habits.

A 2017 University of Michigan study found that children as young as five years old already had specific emotional reactions to spending and saving money. The reactions, in turn, translated into real spending behaviors. A caregiver can help their child understand emotions in general, as well as emotional reactions translated to matters of money.

Other ways to teach young children about money is turning the idea into an activity. Have a child make and use their own piggy bank. They can decorate and then use the bank to save. You can teach a child to sort different types of coins. This can eventually teach the values of different coins. You can chart a child’s progress to earn money or an item they want to purchase. This keeps a child engaged in their progress and is a visual reminder.

Information above is featured in UW-Extension’s Financial Capability for Helping Professionals materials. I look forward to working and partnering with agencies, businesses and individuals living in Kenosha County to help address financial security, food security, and social and emotional well-being.