Like most Iowa adults, Sonya Sellmeyer grew up during a time when you just didn’t talk about certain topics in the classroom – like, for example, your checkbook.
“I don’t know about you, but I know I didn’t learn anything about financial literacy in school,” said Sellmeyer, consumer advocacy officer for the Iowa Insurance Division. “But we can tell by the numbers that we continue to see in regard to consumer debt, people not contributing to their company’s 401(k) match – things like that show us there really is a big need for this.”
Sellmeyer, working as part of broader campaign across Iowa’s state government, is trying to fill that gap. Last fall, she launched a series of online financial literacy workshops that take place on the first Monday of each month at www.IowaWORKS.gov.
Linda Rouse, division administrator for the IWD unit that includes IowaWORKS jobs centers, said the workshops are part of a longstanding effort to help Iowans take control of their financial lives.
“Historically, a majority of our customers who come into the (IowaWORKS) American Job Centers are people who are low in income or people who don’t have any savings,” Rouse said. “We work with these Iowans a lot, and we want to have an impact on the lives of the people that we’re serving.”
Iowa legislators recognized the need for financial education in 2018 by passing a law requiring that all students learn the basics of savings, credit, insurance, etc., as a condition of graduating from high school. But that law did not attempt to backfill the preceding educational void.
“Studies show that one month out of the year is wasted at work because employees are worried about their financial situation,” Sellmeyer said. “Employers should want employees to have this information, because it will improve their well-being and their productivity over time.”
The next financial workshop, scheduled for 2 p.m. on March 6, will cover Banking Basics and the Importance of Savings Accounts. Sessions after that will include cover responsible credit usage, saving for college, insurance, investing, retirement planning, and fraud prevention.
All Iowans should do what they can to become financially literate, Sellmeyer said, because “when you know how the financial system is supposed to work, it’s easy to avoid being defrauded.”
Any Iowan seeking more information about financial literacy can register for a workshop by visiting the IowaWORKS events calendar. Financial literacy workshops are held on the first Monday of each month at 2 p.m.