Dr. Jean Lown, of Utah State University, started FPW in 1997 during her sabbatic leave with six programs using the "Investment Basics" publications developed by Kansas Cooperative Extension. Since then topics have ranged from "Get out of debt" to "Wills and Estate Planning." The most popular programs have included: "Investment Resources on the Internet" (using a university computer lab), "Investment Clubs" (conducted by a local club), "Introduction to Financial Planning and Selecting a Planner" by Certified Financial Planner and College of Business faculty member Dr. Vance Grange, "The time value of money: How to calculate the cost of future financial goals," "Long Term Care Issues" with Dr. Kathy Piercy, Family and Human Development faculty who researches LTC planning, and "Taxes and Investments" by CPA Susan Drown.
The mission of Financial Planning for Women is to educate women about personal finance and investing and motivate them to take responsibility for their financial future. Specific goals include:
- to educate women about personal finance and financial planning.
- to motivate women to take action to reduce debt and start or increase saving/investing.
- to teach women to calculate the amount they need to invest for retirement and to invest toward that goal.
- to provide women with the tools to plan at least one action based on each program.
- to encourage participants to commit to a process of life-long learning.
FPW is the only program in Northern Utah providing monthly financial planning education. Approximately 200 women have attended FPW since 1997. Participants travel as far as 50 miles to attend. The women like the fact that the program is taught by a woman and that there is no selling involved.
Based on the assumption that retirement is life's ultimate financial goal with dismal consequences for those who fail to plan, FPW emphasizes the importance of focusing on the big picture. All financial topics are interconnected; although each program is a separate topic, FPW emphasizes a holistic approach to financial planning: set your goals, prioritize and don't let the lesser issues distract you from your goal. Programs on investing for children's college, getting out of debt, risk management, etc. are all presented within the context of the big, long-term picture.
While anecdotal evidence indicates that some participants are taking actions based on what they learned, we have not had the resources for a systematic study. Recently Dr. Lown submitted a grant proposal to the Foundation for Financial Planning to obtain funding to collect data on how many FPW participants take action, who they are, what motivated them to act, and how to use this information to encourage other women to start planning. The purpose of this grant is to increase participation in FPW, to evaluate the impact of the program, and to identify the most effective ways to motivate women to plan. The grant was awarded by the Foundation for Financial Planning.