Free Personal Finance Classes for Lower-Paid University Workers; Workshops Are on Credit and Budgets and Are Webcast Weekly

Article excerpt


ATHENS, Ga. - Twenty years in the Army taught Bryan Laster that if someone offers free education or professional advice - take it.

So Laster, a sanitation supervisor at a University of Georgia dining hall, jumped at the chance to attend a financial credit workshop Wednesday for food service workers at Bolton Dining Commons.

The workshop was one of a series of personal finance classes that UGA consumer science students and faculty and representatives from the Georgia Federal Credit Union teach on campus each Wednesday.

Every week since late September, about 15 university employees have showed up for the series, taught by advanced consumer economics students, that range in topic from taxes to retirement plans to credit card debt.

About 50 other employees who couldn't attend classes in person have been watching Webcasts of the classes from their computers, said consumer economics professor Lance Palmer, who coordinates the courses.

The classes have been open only to UGA employees and promoted to benefit staff on the lower end of UGA's wage scale, but organizers hope to offer similar classes to the public in the coming year, Palmer said.

Ruth Wooten, a lab technician at UGA's poultry research diagnostic lab, attended most of the Wednesday sessions, which have given her the motivation to monitor her financial matters more frequently and closely.

Wooten had forgotten what she had in the pile of benefits and other paperwork from when she was hired five years ago, she said, but the finance classes have helped her better understand her benefit options, especially making the most of pre-tax payments on her paychecks.

"I've enjoyed it," she said. "Some [classes and students] have been more helpful than others, but it's been a good class for them as well as us."

While the classes may be more or less helpful for people at different wage levels, for people on the lower end of the pay scale "you have to take advantage of every little thing you can," she said.

Wooten attends the main series, which is held at noon. …