COLUMBUS, Ohio – He started the financial literacy program simply because he wanted to learn how to manage his money better.
What Maketia Haralson gained from the Ohio State University Extension New Beginnings/New Fatherhood program instead was a deeper understanding of how to better manage his life.
The single father of a teenage son had recently lost his job and was soon to start another. But he was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and wanted to learn ways to manage his budget so that there would still be money left at the end of the month.
After completing the program, Haralson said he’s learned to comparison shop, pay bills on time, negotiate prices and how to “watch my money, down to the last penny.”
“I’m now smarter about how I spend, and am more practical in terms of buying more of what I need and less wasting money on things I really don’t need,” he said. “It’s also helped me spend more time with my son.
“I’ve gone from struggling and working six days a week to now working five days a week with more time to interact with my son and seeing more of my money because I’m managing it better, saving more and we’re living better.”
Presented by OSU Extension in collaboration with the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, the New Fathers/New Beginnings pilot program was offered this winter and spring in five Ohio counties: Clark, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton and Montgomery. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University (CFAES).
The program was designed to help new and expectant fathers tackle the everyday challenges of being a father, to help them build a strong foundation, and to learn ways to support their children and families, said Susan Colbert, Franklin County Expansion and Engagement program director with OSU Extension’s Community Development program.
While money management was the central focus of the program, the ultimate goal of the initiative was to help these fathers become better parents, providers and partners, she said.
“In some cases, fathers, especially those paying child support, may not be as involved with their children because they owe money, may be underemployed or unemployed, and, as such, may be disengaged from their children,” Colbert said. “And studies have shown that children with actively involved fathers develop better verbal and intellectual skills, perform better in school, are more emotionally secure, and have fewer behavioral problems.”
By teaching new fathers to manage their money better, they can also learn how to be better fathers and partners and more involved with their children, she said.
“Keeping these fathers involved with their children benefits the entire community,” Colbert said. “We offered this program as part of Ohio State’s land grant mission to bring the resources of the university into the community to effect change and impact children and families.
“With OSU Extension having offices in counties throughout Ohio and the relationships that we’ve established statewide, we are uniquely positioned to facilitate this program.”
The program used the Money Smart Curriculum, developed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Money Smart Alliance, to teach participants personal finances. The course was divided into four, two-hour sessions and focused on budgeting, savings and credit, all designed to educate new fathers and fathers-to-be on how to make sound financial decisions.
Some 182 fathers have gone through the program, Colbert said. And at least one other financial institution, Farmers National Bank in Wayne County, has reached out to Colbert to forge a partnership to offer the fathers and finance program in that area in northeast Ohio, she said.
That’s not surprising, considering that a majority of the fathers who have taken the course have reported that they found the information and training highly enlightening, said Deborah Carney, director of the OSU Extension Hamilton County office.
Many of the new fathers who went through the program came away with information they simply hadn’t been exposed to previously, considering that most people aren’t taught personal finance in high school, she said.
“Helping them understand the difference between debit and credit, what a credit report is and how it can impact your life, how to develop a budget, learning what compound interest is, how to save, and how to plan for the future, really resonated with many of these fathers,” Carney said.
“When you talk about finances or budgeting, people may be a little shy or intimidated to talk about what they do or do not know. This program works because we break down the lessons into language they can understand, to take the mystery out of personal finances.”
For Haralson, completing the program is also a direct benefit for his son, he said.
“It’s a trickle down effect – it has to start somewhere,” Haralson said. “A lot of people are out there struggling but are spending money on specialty coffees and lunch everyday, spending money that could instead go toward savings for a down payment on a new house, a new car or building an emergency fund.
“These are the things that I think about now that I really didn’t think about before.”