Financial education for families
In her role as a University of Minnesota Extension educator with the Family Resiliency Team, Sharon Powell spends a lot of time teaching low-income individuals and families how to build money-management skills and improve their financial situations.
The position is perfect for Powell, who earned a Ph.D. in family social science from the U of M, because she gets to be both a researcher and outreach educator. And through her work, she continually sees people using newly acquired information and skills to make positive changes in their lives.
This is especially evident when Powell teaches classes about finances, which she does at several sites in North Minneapolis, including the University’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC). Whatever people’s circumstances might be, Powell focuses on getting people up to speed on important financial concepts, such as how the credit system works for and against consumers.
“Whether you’re American or not, our credit system can be confusing,” she says, “but it’s so important that people understand things like what it means to have good credit and how to improve your credit score.” Fortunately, Powell explains, strategies for achieving and maintaining good credit are easier than people think.
Class after class, Powell sees people go from discouraged to hopeful when they realize they do have some power to improve their financial lives. “And I’m glad because I like to think I can provide some hope,” she says. “I can tell you that most of the families I work with are good money managers. They’re just stretched for money because there isn’t enough money. That’s the problem.”