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Family Economics News - March 2008

The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) works with land-grant university partners and others to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities through national program leadership and Federal assistance. Among the Agency’s goals is to support increased economic opportunities and quality of life in rural areas. Family economics aligns with this goal by focusing on how individuals and families obtain and use resources such as money, time, human capital, material resources, and community services; by exploring the relationship between individuals and families and the larger economy; and by studying the impact of public issues, policies, and programs on family economic well-being.

Research/Program Evaluation

  • Savings Habits of Americans
  • Metro, Non-metro Earnings Divide
  • Farm, Ranch Operator Health


  • America Saves Week: February 24–March 2
  • New on eXtension: National Launch!
  • Small Steps to Health and Wealth
  • President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy


  • 2008 Consumer Action Handbook
  • Social Dimension of Bioenergy
  • The Jump$tart Clearinghouse
  • Financial Education Toolkit for College Campuses
  • Retirement Made Simpler


  • Call for Papers:
    • Journal of Individual Financial Management
    • Journal of Consumer Affairs 
    • Journal of Consumer Affairs: Special 2009 Issue
    • Journal of Personal Finance 
    • Financial Counseling and Planning
    • The Journal of Youth Development
    • Journal of Family and Economic Issues 
    • The Journal of Consumer Education
    • Financial Services Review
    • 2009 Federal Reserve System Community Affairs Research Conference
    • Academy of Financial Services 
    • 2008 Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education Conference
    • Academy of Financial Services
    • 2009 Federal Reserve System Community Affairs Research Conference
  • Funding:
    • Grants.gov
    • Regional Risk Management Education
    • FINRA Investor Education Foundation
    • National Endowment for Financial Education®
    • MMI Education Foundation
    • NRI Request for Applications
    • International Science and Education Competitive Grants Program
    • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    • Foundation for Financial Literacy



About half of all U.S. households report adequate savings progress, according to the American Savings Education Council’s (ASEC) report of the saving habits of Americans. This survey coincides with the second annual America Saves Week, inwhich more than 80 major governmental, non-profit, and industry organizations participated. The survey includes questions that make up a "savings checklist" found on the new America Saves Web site, which was developed jointly by America Saves and ASEC.  

Average earnings are lower in non-metro areas than in metro areas, even after accounting for differences in the individual characteristics of non-metro earners. According to an Economic Research Service report, the non-metro earnings gap is greater for workers with more education and more experience. For non-metro households, lower earnings may be offset by factors difficult to measure, such as lower living costs or the value of rural amenities. The most obvious worker characteristics that contribute to higher wages are those related to the worker’s productivity value to an employer. Years of schooling or work experience are common indicators of human capital.

Farm and ranch operators are feeling the burden of health care costs and suffering financial and health access consequences, according to the Access Project 2007 Health Insurance Survey of Farm and Ranch Operators. This study highlights health insurance coverage and health care issues for farm and ranch operators in seven Great Plains states. One in four of the survey respondents have medical debt and experience long-lasting problems in spite of having health insurance coverage.  


Got savings? That’s the question local extension educators in nearly 30 states sent an estimated 12 million youth and adults during America Saves Week February 24–March 2. Visit the CSREES Financial Security page to see a report of extension’s planned activities. Among partner organizations that worked with the Consumer Federation of America, the lead organization for America Saves, extension led the most extensive effort to motivate Americans to build wealth, not debt.  For example, in Hamilton County High School about 1,000 students enrolled as Tennessee Savers. In Leavenworth County, KS,  more than 2,000 employees got "save" messages. In Florida’s 67 counties, about 5,000 Americans at free-tax preparation sites learned how to save using the split tax refund. At the national level, eXtension announced where extension educators offer unbiased help with financial questions 24-7, 365 days a year.

eXtension was launched on February 21, 2008, at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, VA. During this rollout celebration, featured the Personal Finance Community of Practice (COP), along with 15 other COPs. USDA Under Secretary Gale Buchanan cut the ribbon and "opened the door" to eXtension and delivered remarks to those attending, including USDA, CSREES, and Congressional officials. Colien Hefferan, CSREES Administrator, hosted the launch. The event featured media events, and COP leaders staffed exhibits and briefed attendees on eXtension. The leadership team for eXtension’s personal finance section offered two briefings—reaching farm and ranch families, and the Frequently Asked Questions function. Debra Pankow, North Dakota State University, leads the team, along with Nancy Porter, Clemson University; Judy Branch, University of Vermont; Megan O’Neil-Haight, University of Maryland; Barbara O’Neill, Rutgers University; Sharon Seiling, Ohio State University; and Erik Anderson, University of Idaho. Jane Schuchardt, CSREES, and Linda Kirk Fox, Washington State University, advised the COP. Nearly 200 extension professionals from across the nation are components of the COP.

The Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) program is a "work in progress" and continues to add new features, such as Spanish language fact sheets and monthly online health and financial messages, both located on the SSHW Web site.  Impact evaluation research will begin this year and an online SSHW Challenge is in the planning stages.  Over a dozen states, most recently Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, are implementing SSHW or are in the process of providing capacity-building training for their extension educators.  In addition, a 2-hour training DVD is available from Linda Block at the University of Arizona. SSHW program materials are available for free downloading on an internal Web site for extension educators only or on CD-ROMs.  For information about both sources of program materials, contact Dr. Barbara O’Neill at Rutgers University. 

Tahira Hira, Iowa State University, is the voice of the Land-Grant University and Cooperative Extension Systems on the new 16-member President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, which held its first meeting February 13 in Washington, DC. The council, established for 2 years through Executive Order by President George W. Bush on January 22, agreed to focus on expanding Americans' access to financial services and increasing financial education for youth in school and for adults in the workplace. The council also called for research to measure the nation's level of financial literacy. The President and the Secretary of the Treasury have tasked the council to work with the public and private sectors to help increase financial education efforts for all Americans. The group will form subcommittees, including Financial Literacy for Youth, Financial Literacy in the Workplace, Financial Access for the Underserved, and Financial Education Research. The subcommittees will further lay out the council's agenda and goals for the upcoming months. The council is expected to name a liaison to the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, which released a financial education strategy report in 2006.

The council will accept public comments through April 30. Details on how to submit comments are available in the Federal Register Notice and are pending posting on U.S. Treasury Department’s Web site.


The 2008 Consumer Action Handbook offers tips for consumers to file complaints, buy a car, protect themselves from identity theft, and more. It also includes contact information to hundreds of companies and Better Business Bureau offices in every state. You can find the entire new edition of the handbook order multiple copies at the Consumer Action Web site.  For similar information for Spanish speaking consumers, check out the Spanish language equivalent, Guia Del Consumidor and companion Web site.

The Human and Social Dimensions of Sustainable Bio-based Economies Listserv is comprised of individuals within the Land-Grant System and beyond who have expertise and/or interest in the human and social dimensions of bioenergy, biofuels, biobased products, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the implications of these for rural people and places. The Listserv, now more than 600 individuals strong, facilitates the exchange of information and allows members to share research, education, and extension activities, funding opportunities, related resources, and announcements. To subscribe, send the following information to Patricia Hipple, CSREES national program leader for Economic Systems: full name, e-mail address, phone number, institution or affiliation, discipline and/or department, and Web site if applicable.

The Jump$tart Clearinghouse provides an easy-to-use, free online database of current personal finance materials. Targeted users include educators, parents, and students from kindergarten through college. Established in the 1990s, the Internet-based clearinghouse continues to grow rapidly as more people turn to the Internet for up-to-date financial information and teaching tools. No registration, sign-in, or passwords are required.

The American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI) Consumer Education Committee has designed a step-by-step, how-to guide to help campus administrators and financial professionals develop and implement successful financial education programs on college campuses. The committee also developed three financial education brochures that for distribution to students. The materials are free and can be downloaded, printed, and personalized by any campus. Visit the ACCI Web site to get the Financial Education Toolkit for College Campuses.

The AARP, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and the Retirement Security Project (RSP) launched Retirement Made Simpler.  This campaign provides information on and encourages adoption of automatic retirement plans where employees have to opt out of participation, rather than opt in.





  • CSREES Contact: Jane Schuchardt, National Program Leader, CSREES-USDA

  • eXtension (pronounced ee-eXtension) Financial Security for All provides reliable, research-based, and up-to-date financial and consumer information, including learning lessons, fact sheets, and unbiased peer-reviewed answers to frequently asked questions. Consumers can access eXtension 24/7/365 on any Internet-ready device.
    Contact: Debra Pankow, family economics specialist, North Dakota State University, or go to eXtension.org and click on Personal Finance.

  • National Initiative "Financial Security in Later Life" Contact: Nancy M. Porter, Family Resource Management Specialist, Clemson University

  • Financial Literacy for Youth Contact: Erica Tobe, Program Leader for Youth Financial Literacy & Housing and Michigan State University Extension

Back issues of Family Economics News
are available.

To submit items for consideration for this newsletter, contact Jim Terry, Program Analyst, CSREES-USDA.

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