Thought Leadership Thursday
There’s No Time like the Present: Supporting Maine Families on a Path to Financial Wellness
Thought Leadership Thursday Article
Throughout the past year, we have experienced unprecedented changes in our personal and professional lives. From adjusting to remote work to supporting our children and families as they navigate a new educational landscape, I have found myself consistently impressed with the unwavering resilience and resourcefulness of Maine families, including my own. There have been many silver linings discovered during this challenging time, but professionally for me and my colleagues, one such realization has been the need to recommit to supporting financial wellness, not only for our employees, but for citizens across our state.
To kick off the school year, FAME partnered with the Maine Office of Securities and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to launch Invest in ME Reads, a program designed to support family financial education. The goal of the program is to support elementary-age children in developing financial skills early in life, and also includes tools and resources for the adults in their lives. As a part of the program, every second grader in the state of Maine received a children’s book that focused on themes such as saving, delayed gratification, and giving. The free books were a welcome gift during a challenging time for schools and families, and the inaugural year of the program was a tremendous success. As one Maine teacher shared, “This is very generous and I appreciate you sending them to us. Every little positive extra that comes our way is such a wonderful thing.”
Throughout the year, we also explored new ways to support Maine adults by meeting them where they are, including our latest workplace outreach effort, Financial Check-In with FAME. This free monthly webinar series was developed to support adults learning about how to prepare and pay for higher education, including financial wellness and student loan repayment. To kick off the series, we offered a webinar for employers on How an Employee Financial Wellness Program Can Help Your Organization, followed by workshops on raising financially savvy kids, balancing saving for college and retirement, and managing student loan repayment. Employers were encouraged to share the virtual trainings with their employees. Through the program, we were able to strengthen our collaboration with employers across the state, including new connections with state employees.
I would like to personally thank State Treasurer and FAME Board member Henry Beck for supporting our statewide efforts and helping us to engage Maine families and workers to access these valuable training opportunities. Treasurer Beck recently shared these thoughts, “I was initially skeptical of employer-based financial education, but after seeing Mary’s work at FAME, made possible by the generosity of NAST partners, I now deeply value financial education in the workplace and the positive impact it can make. Policymakers always need to tackle large economic problems, but they cannot succeed without financial education and the work of people like Mary and agencies like FAME.”
In addition to our statewide financial education efforts, we were also able to expand our employee financial wellness program through a generous $25,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation in collaboration with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, and the NAST Foundation. The program expansion, which is currently underway, allowed us to further support employees by offering will and estate planning, including a cost share incentive to help defray expenses. We also strengthened our research efforts, and have begun work to develop a statewide employer financial wellness toolkit to support other public and private employers across the state who are seeking to develop their own programs. We look forward to expanding our efforts to support Maine employers and their employees, and we are confident that the financial wellness grant will help plant the seeds for future financial wellness programs and collaboration.
Despite a year of challenges and loss throughout our state, together we have accomplished a great deal to ensure that all Mainers have the knowledge and skills to participate in Maine’s future economy. While the pandemic has created a great deal of financial uncertainty, it has also further emphasized the need for financial education.
We have a great deal of work ahead of us, but I believe our resolve and commitment has only been strengthened during this time and I look toward the future with optimism.