UTD was headquarters for the national press conference for Wi$e Up financial planning’s official launch July 13 that was attended by more than 140 people from outlying universities and business.
Wi$e Up is a financial planning tool implemented by the Department of Labor (DOL) Women’s Bureau geared towards Generation X women – ages 22-35 – to instill knowledge about financial security and money management.
Beverly Lyle, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau, said the biggest obstacle keeping young women from being financially secure is taking the time to learn and understand the concepts.
“They are a busy generation. Making something that was easy for them to use has a big challenge,” Lyle said. “The second big challenge was just getting started. It’s important to start young, and if they do that, they can all have a million dollars when they retire.”
And in order to reach as large a population of Generation Xers as possible, UTD was contracted by the Women’s Bureau to create the online segment of Wi$e Up – www.wiseupwomen.org.
“(The DOL) is finding people are not saving early enough for a generation that may not see Social Security and Medicare. They want to see people taking better responsibility early on,” said Lauren DeCillis, director of the UTD Women’s Center.
Given $99,000 to complete the task, the Women’s Center hired three new workers and has been working on the project since July 2003.
“It’s important for women to have a multimedia, as well as a multitasking, type of learning,” DeCillis said.
Wi$e Up’s curriculum – written by Nancy Granovsky, professor and extension family economics specialist at the Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University – consists of eight major components:
-credit in a money world
-money for life
-insurance and risk management
-achieving financial security
-becoming an investor.
DeCillis said she enjoyed working with the Women’s Bureau and the challenge presented with creating an innovative online segment for Wi$e Up.
“The Women’s Bureau did a great job of leading us into this unknown area,” DeCillis said. “We would like the project to stay at UTD.”
The online portion will need to be housed at an institution for updates and additions, whether it is a university or business, but DeCillis hopes it will stay at UTD.
“It would be a tremendous project for students to run because it would enable student to network, partnership with financial institutions and learn business management,” DeCillis said.
SMU and Texas A&M were also considered to create the online portion, but in the end, UTD was deemed a shoo-in for the project.
“It meant a lot for us to have the commitment from the top, and we had Dr. (Franklyn) Jenifer’s support from the beginning,” Lyle said.
“It was the right choice and we are very happy with this partnership,” agreed Shinae Chun, director of the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau.
Chun said her motivation for a program that would emphasize planning and saving for the future came from her two Generation X children.
“I thought this was important through my personal experience with my two Generation X children,” Chun said. “They don’t even think about saving for tomorrow.”
In her speech at the conference, Chun explained the importance of saving, but let the numbers speak for themselves.
“When you are 20, if you save $1,000 for 10 years – until you are 30 – you would have over $168,000. But, if you start when you are 30 and save $1,000 until you are 65, you will have a little over $100,000,” Chun said.
Susan Jones – author of “The Money Rules-50 Ways Savvy Women Can Make More, Save More and Have More!” – also addressed the conference as the keynote speaker.
Jones, who spent six years paying off IRS debt and claimed personal bankruptcy, wrote her book to focus on the major principles of successful personal finance: change your mindset, be honest, learn, take action and live richly.
“I have taught the most affluent women and have stories that would make your skin crawl. The first thing we need to do as women is change our mindset,” Jones said.
To learn about financial planning, Jones said Wi$e Up offers the opportunity for women to gain the knowledge and take charge of their own personal finances.
“There are other (financial security) sites, but you have to have some basic level of knowledge (about finances),” Jones said. “There is nothing else like Wi$e Up out there.”
July 13 was the formal, national launch of Wi$e Up to the public, but Wi$e Up has been available since its soft launch in March 2004. The test phase will last until December 2004.
Those who gave testimony of Wi$e Up’s effectiveness at the conference said they would not have had the knowledge to be successful without it.
“I am glad that someone somewhere thought that this was important for our generation,” said Revonna Woods, a Dallas resident currently testing Wi$e Up. “I hope all colleges will make ‘Personal Finance 101’ required.”
But Walter Sutton, special assistant to President Jenifer, made it a point during the conference to illustrate Wi$e Up’s impact in everyone’s life.
“While Wi$e Up is designed for Generation X women, it can help men,” Sutton said. “You can be sure I’ll be mentioning it to my 30-year-old son.”
At the end of the day, the DOL Women’s Bureau wants to provide the knowledge to a generation so they may have prosperous futures, Lyle said.
“Hopefully we have disputed the myth that it is impossible to save for the future because it is,” Lyle said.