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Thought Leadership Thursday

Going Virtual: An Online Financial Literacy Wellness Series for Public Employees

John Murante

Thought Leadership Thursday Article

Going Virtual: An Online Financial Literacy Wellness Series for Public Employees
July 29, 2021
John Murante
State Treasurer
Nebraska
Dear Colleagues,

Financial wellness has become increasingly important for all Americans. In the wake of downturns, a global pandemic, and changes to work-based benefits, the number of individuals facing economic uncertainty is staggering.

Before I was elected Treasurer of Nebraska, I had the honor of owning and operating my family’s small restaurant in Omaha. While I loved being an employer, one aspect always that always troubled me was the lack of financial knowledge in my employees, especially the younger ones – those in high school or just graduated.

I noticed that the older staff had a better base of fiscal knowledge, but that knowledge seemed to have been come from life experience – and very rarely was that experience a good one.

As Treasurer, one of my focuses has been on expanding access to financial literacy. I’m proud to have been able to work with state senators this past legislative session to pass legislation establishing fiscal literacy courses in Nebraska schools, including a requirement that students take and pass such a class prior to graduating.

Thanks to the generosity of NAST and Wells Fargo Foundation, my office was able to take the financial literacy message to a whole different audience. Shortly after the public employee grant announcement, I contacted Dr. Jennifer Davidson with the Nebraska Council on Economic Education who my office had partnered with in the past. What started out as a conference call between our two offices blossomed into something none of us expected.

We decided to host a series of six financial wellness webinars for Nebraska public employees, beginning in early April and running through May. Each webinar was to last one hour, and the overall experience would include topics such as budgeting, savings, debt reduction, insurance, etc.  As an incentive, 200 participants who completed the entire course would receive $100. In addition, we awarded $50 gift cards to random participants in each webinar.

Participants in the study completed a pre-test to establish their baseline financial knowledge and behaviors and then an identical post-test. We were originally aiming for 500 participants. My office reached out to several public employee divisions across Nebraska, including teacher unions, corrections, fire departments, city governments and asked them to share the opportunity with their employees.

We also were fortunate to receive several media stories about the program:
·        https://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/today/article/employee-financial-wellness-program-launching-april-6/

 ·        https://nebraska.tv/news/local/financial-wellness-webinars-available-in-spring-for-public-employees

 ·        https://ruralradio.com/maxcountry/news/nebraska-treasurers-office-launches-public-employee-financial-wellness-program/

After all our efforts, we were overjoyed to see more than 2,000 public employees registered for the webinar series. The webinar series went wonderfully, especially considering the number of participants. The speakers were knowledgeable and engaging and the feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. We are currently discussing what the next steps for this program will look like. As part of phase 2 of the program, the recorded webinar series is open and available to the general public.

It has been almost a year and a half since many public entities began staffing changes and other measures to combat COVID-19. This has led to a great deal of financial uncertainty that can weigh heavily on a family. It was our goal with this webinar series to provide Nebraska public employees with the resources they need. I feel we made a great deal of progress on that front.

Before I wrap up, I again would like to give a shout out to Dr. Davidson and her staff. Their efforts to successfully launch and facilitate this webinar series cannot be overstated. The state of Nebraska owes them a huge thank you. As well, I would like to make a huge shout out to NAST, Wells Fargo Foundation, and all who made this grant possible.

It truly impacted lives for the better.

John Murante
Nebraska State Treasurer

 

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