Saving money is sometimes easier said than done, especially in a difficult economy. Specialists and agents with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service are helping people across the state learn how they can save money through the Kentucky Saves program in partnership with the Kentucky Jump$tart Coalition.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the U.S. Department of Commerce, the personal savings rate for Americans in December 2011 was 4 percent.
Saving money can help a family reach their financial goals and have money on hand in case of unexpected events such as a job loss or medical illness, said Jennifer Hunter, UK assistant extension professor for family finance.
“Building an emergency fund is one of the most important reasons for families to save, but families should also set savings goals, such as saving for a vacation, holiday spending, college funds and retirement,” she said. “Each saving goal should be incorporated into the monthly household budget, to help avoid debt when these expenses occur.”
Kentucky Saves Week is Feb. 19-25, but family and consumer sciences extension agents have taken the week to the next level, offering programs on building personal savings, paying off debt and financial management not only this week, but throughout the month of February and the year.
“County extension agents are essential in sharing and spreading the word about Kentucky Saves,” Hunter said. “The Kentucky Saves program will grow by getting local community businesses, financial institutions and organizations involved. The county extension agents are the key to building those relationships.”
Gina Noe, Madison County family and consumer sciences extension agent, partnered with local banks and the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions to offer four weekly workshops on saving strategies with topics such as couponing, building better credit, budgeting and home buying and borrowing. She also worked with Park Community Federal Credit Union to develop a display about Kentucky Saves at their Richmond branch.
Theresa Howard, LaRue County family and consumer sciences extension agent, has partnered with the local newspaper to promote savings. In addition to her weekly columns that have focused on financial management topics throughout this month, the newspaper is asking its readers to send in their favorite savings tips and will share those responses in a special section of the newspaper focusing on financial management.
Howard also partnered with the LaRue County Public Library to display information about Kentucky Saves as well as information on financial management topics available through the library.
“Kentucky Saves is just another tool that agents can use to share information related to savings and finances with our clients,” Howard said. “It reminds them how to have financially savvy families and about savings opportunities available to them in our communities.”
Howard is one of the many FCS agents across the state who have partnered with their 4-H youth development agent to help young people become savers through the Kentucky Saves piggy bank design contest. Howard learned about the idea from a similar program in Tennessee and adapted it for Kentucky. In the contest, 4-H’ers use their creativity to design a piggy bank. Winning piggy banks from each of the state’s seven extension districts were sent to Frankfort where they are on display in the Capitol Rotunda through February.
Many of the agents have taken unique approaches to the piggy bank contest. Family and consumer sciences extension agent Becky Nash in Taylor County is one of those. She approached the banks in Campbellsville in 2011 about hosting the piggy bank contest at their branches. Six banks participated and selected each location’s winner. The banks gave the winners prizes, such as savings bonds and cash. The winning entries from each of the banks were sent to the extension office where a county winner was then chosen to go on to the district contest.
“It was important to get the banks involved to get the community to buy into the project and Kentucky Saves,” Nash said. “In 2011, the banks provided $930 in prizes for the winners. Prizes totaled $755 in 2012.”
Those interested in becoming a Kentucky Saver or learning more about the program, can visit the Kentucky Saves website, http://www.kentuckysaves.org/ or can contact the local extension office for information on local financial management programs.
Jennifer Hunter, 859-257-3290; Theresa Howard, 270-358-3401; Gina Noe, 859-623-4072; Becky Nash, 270-465-4511