Celebrating Money Smart Week

Craig Benzel headshot.UWL Alumnus Craig Benzel, of the Green Bay Packers, is one of the speakers during Money Smart Week's “Economics & Sports: Managing Money to Win” event from 4-8 p.m. Friday, April, 28, in the Brian and Lori Hesprich Auditorium, 260 Graff Main Hall.

Events April 22-29 draw national speakers, aim to pump up financial knowhow

More than three quarters —77 percent — of U.S. adults say something causes them financial stress and about half — 45 percent — report living paycheck to paycheck, according to a December 2015 survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).

A lack of understanding in the general public about how to manage personal finances is the primary reason people across the country are coming together April 22-29 to celebrate Money Smart Week.

Locally, the week is an opportunity to learn about personal finance topics through engaging national speakers and fun events. All events are free and open to the public. View the local schedule.

One of the biggest Money Smart Week events will be a discussion with four nationally-renowned speakers during the “Economics & Sports: Managing Money to Win” event from 4-8 p.m. Friday, April, 28, in the Brian and Lori Hesprich Auditorium, 260 Graff Main Hall, at UW-La Crosse. Advanced online registration is recommended.

During this symposium, the audience will discover why 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt within two years of football retirement, how to think about money in terms of playing good offense and defense, as well as other personal finance tips for everyday life to be happier and more financially secure. Also, UWL alumnus Craig Benzel, who works for the Green Bay Packers, will share how the team competes off the field. A signed Clay Matthews jersey will be given away at the end of the symposium.

Symposium speakers include: Benzel, ’91, vice president of Sales and Business Development for the Green Bay Packers; Russ Sobel, professor of Economics and Entrepreneurship at the Citadel; Adam Carroll, a financial literacy expert whose TED talks have more than one million views and the creator of the “Broke, Busted & Disgusted” documentary, featured on CNBC; and Billy Corben, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker. The event is sponsored by UWL’s Economics Department, the Wisconsin Initiative for Economic Research, La Crosse Money Smart Week and UWL’s It Make$ Cents program.

Talking about finance is often considered taboo — along the lines of religion or politics, says Adam Hoffer, UWL assistant professor of Economics.

“There is not a great reason for that,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be hard, complicated or embarrassing. The things we highlight this week are simple things. When you are more educated, things become easier and you can end up with better finances.”

Taking time to learn financial literacy is critical, particularly considering recent statistics that show people of all ages and income levels struggle with managing money, says Amanda Gasper, a Money Smart Week coordinator and UWL’s financial literacy coordinator. Gasper points to several statistics.

  • The average American college student graduating had more than $30,000 in student loan debt. The average UWL student had slightly less — $26,000.
  • About seven out of 10 college students — both at UWL and nationally — report they are financially stressed.
  • Indebted households today have credit card balances averaging $16,061, according to a NerdWallet report, based on data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Census Bureau.

UWL provides award-winning resources for personal finances

UWL has resources throughout the year for students to help them manage personal finances and leave school with less debt. Amanda Gasper runs UWL’s It Make$ Cents! financial literacy program, which uses a peer mentoring model to educate students about financial topics. The program has received the 2012 and 2013 Wisconsin Financial Literacy Award from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The program reached about 11,000 people last year, including programming at local high schools. It Make$ Cents! also plays a large role in coordinating Money Smart Week.

Other Money Smart Week UWL-based events include:

  • “Geocache for College Cash” event to unlock the mysteries behind budgeting and credit 9-11:30 a.m. Monday, April 24, starting at the It Make$ Cents! Money Management Center, 2103 Centennial Hall, at UWL.
  • “Life after College: Loan Repayment” from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, 3110 Student Union, at UWL. Learn the basics on how to navigate the complicated world of student loan payments, consolidation, and even potential forgiveness and discharge.
  • TEDx UWLaCrosse Salon featuring Adam Carroll, from 3:30-5 p.m., Room 150, Murphy Library, at UWL.
  • Free Movie Friday. “Margin Call” will show from noon-1:50 p.m. Friday, April 28, in the UWL’s Student Union Theatre, 521 East Ave. N., La Crosse. Inspired by a true story that takes place over a 36-hour period at a large Wall Street investment bank and highlights the initial stages of the financial crisis of 2007–08.

Money Smart Week

Money Smart Week is celebrated by hundreds of organizations across the country to help consumers better manage their personal finances. UWL started coordinating a Money Smart Week in 2013, attracting nearly 200 people. Last year’s event attracted nearly 2,000 people from throughout the La Crosse community. Organizers continue to grow the event, and encourage more public participation. Money Smart Week was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002. Learn more about events happening locally.