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Thought Leadership Thursday

NAST Financial Education Directors Caucus

NAST Financial Education Directors Caucus

Thought Leadership Thursday Article

NAST Financial Education Directors Caucus
February 4, 2021
Alayna Van Tassel
Deputy Treasurer and Executive Director of the Office of Economic Empowerment
Massachusetts State Treasurer's Office

Dear Colleagues,

I am honored to serve as Chair of the NAST Financial Education Directors Caucus. The focus of the Caucus is to provide an opportunity for staff to learn about promising practices and talk about common issues. Although our programs may vary state by state, we have the same goals and more often than not, we face the same challenges.

When in-person programming was cancelled last year to due to the pandemic, states had to look at new and innovative ways to meet constituents where they are: at home and on their computers or mobile devices.

On our monthly calls we heard that in Rhode Island the Office of the General Treasurer swiftly pivoted to virtual financial empowerment outreach and was able to stay connected with their constituents. They hosted town halls on Facebook Live discussing a variety of topics that were both timely and relevant to viewers on topics such as racial wealth inequality, paying for college, and financial assistance available during COVID. The Rhode Island Financial Empowerment Roundtables were held virtually, and focused on financial resources for constituents and small businesses throughout the pandemic.

We learned that in order to address the ever-changing education delivery models throughout Maine and the U.S., the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) expanded its outreach to include virtual delivery of all college access and financial education programs. A variety of new tools and resources were also developed to support virtual delivery of FAME’s Claim Your Future® program, including train the trainer webinars, facilitated virtual lessons for students, and animated videos for students and educators. FAME also created a COVID-19 Resources page for Maine families, lenders, and businesses.

Over the last 12 months, the Nevada State Treasurer’s Office has undergone a fresh rebrand with a new look and feel, and released a website at NVigate.gov. The College Savings Division of the State Treasurer’s Office has been focusing on providing families with college preparation information; including topics on scholarships, financial aid, 529 plans, and student loans. Over the past several months, the office has interviewed financial aid directors, school counselors, principals, university presidents, students, parents, and more via online Zoom webinars, with great success.

And here in Massachusetts when the stay-at-home order was first issued last March, the Office of Economic Empowerment moved quickly to launch a new webpage to give residents up to date information and resources related to COVID-19. The Money Talk Tuesdays webinar series went live in April to provide residents with timely information on important financial topics. The decision was made to reallocate funds from in person programs to instead provide grants to small businesses. We also updated our websites MyFinancialLifeMA  and EqualPayMA to include new learning tools.

Sharing new ideas, success stories, and looking at hot button issues are the goals of the Financial Education Directors Caucus. Our monthly meetings feature speakers to address common topics that members have raised. We showcase promising practices from across the country and have had outside speakers who are experts in the field. These meetings have led to increased networking between financial education staff and have allowed resources to be shared more frequently.

COVID-19 has underscored the need for high quality financial education. Almost 14% of Americans have reported that they used their emergency savings due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.  And the past year has been worse for women. In December of 2020, employers cut 140,000 jobs and 100% of those newly unemployed were women.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led more Americans to think about saving for an emergency or for their retirement. Americans are seeking financial advice now more than ever, according to study by Empower Retirement.

As we approach the one year mark since most Americans started working from home and the word “Zoom” entered all of our vocabularies, we face tremendous uncertainty. Whether programs stay online or are held in-person, one thing that is certain: State Treasurers will continue to be leaders promoting the need for financial education.

I want to thank NAST for their leadership in convening the Caucus. In the coming months we will be planning for April's Financial Education Month. If your staff has not joined the Financial Education Directors Caucus, please encourage them to do so.  To be added to the listserv, please reach out to Emma Heydlauff.  If you have any questions about the Caucus, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly. Our next meeting is February 18th, I hope to see you there!

Best,

Alayna Van Tassel
Deputy Treasurer and Executive Director of the Office of Economic Empowerment
Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office

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