September 10, 2008

Times are tough. Caught by the rising costs of fuel, food and housing, many families have trouble making their diminishing dollars stretch far enough. The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service recently rolled out Moneywise, a new Web site that contains valuable information for people caught in such a situation.

Agents in eastern Kentucky pushed for a central location for resources to help meet the needs in their counties, though agents around the state recognized the need for such a site, too.

"Agents are always on the front lines," said Steve Isaacs, assistant director for community and economic development in the UK College of Agriculture. "They see the gas prices going up and the food prices going up themselves. They see things happening in the communities -- increased calls for assistance at food pantries and those sorts of things. They're well aware of what's going on in the communities, and I think they have a desire to respond to that."

Moneywise is a compilation of financial information, decision aids, and calculators covering a variety of topics in one easy to use Web site. There are links to information about energy, credit, identity theft, meal planning and shopping tips, agricultural topics, gas prices, health, gardening, parenting and budgeting, among others. The emphasis on wisdom that's illustrated in the name Moneywise carries through all the different categories in the site: Healthwise, Creditwise, Youthwise, Travelwise, Farmwise, etc.

Isaacs said the breadth of topics may surprise people.

"For instance, who would have thought about putting something like Gardenwise in a financial management Web site," he said. "But we've seen a lot of people trying to offset higher food costs, so there's been a big increase in interest in home gardening and home canning. So I think Gardenwise is a perfect fit for something like this."

The site is intended to put valuable resources at agents' fingertips, but it also is open to the general public.  Anyone with a financial question or concern is welcome to surf the site for pertinent information.

"Specialists in all the program areas - ag, FCS, 4-H, community and economic development -- worked together to pool resources that address financial crisis and financial issues, whether that's fertilizer on the farm or feeding your kids supper," said Jennifer Hunter, senior extension associate in agricultural economics at UK, who is managing the site. "There are also links to other universities and government agencies."

Moneywise is in the early stages of development. Content will be updated and added regularly. Visit the local county extension office for additional financial tips or for help in using the Moneywise site at http://ces.ca.uky.edu/moneywise.

News Topics: