eXtension Personal Finance provides timely, research-based, information on personal finance via learning lessons, frequently asked questions, and an ask-an-expert feature.
Personal Finance is a part of eXtension (pronounced E-extension), which provides the best information and educational opportunities the nationwide Cooperative Extension System (CES) traditionally offers in a community-based setting. CES is a Congressionally-mandated, nationwide, non-formal educational network that takes research knowledge from 106 public land-grant universities to people where they live and work. More than 3,000 county offices, located in every state, the District of Columbia, and seven U.S. territories, are a part of this educational network. Its federal partner is the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The key messages on eXtension Personal Finance are:
- spend less than earnings;
- avoid excess debt;
- improve credit worthiness;
- plan for tomorrow while keeping pace with day-to-day needs;
- save and invest regularly; and,
protect financial identity.
Extension personal finance experts make up a Community of Practice (CoP) that develops and maintains the site. The CoP team includes land-grant university faculty from Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey, Idaho, South Carolina, Florida, Iowa, North Dakota, and Indiana, plus nearly 250 extension professionals from across the US. The team is advised by a NIFA national program leader and the Washington State University extension director.
For those who want to build skills, the user-friendly site offers in-depth learning lessons, such as Investing for Your Future, Planning for a Secure Retirement and Legally Secure Your Financial Future. Some lessons include streaming video, quizzes, and other features that improve the user’s educational experience. Financial calculators, such as PowerPay and the Mortgage Comparison Calculator, help consumers test a pending financial decision before taking action.
For those who have a quick question or want some basic information, the CoP has developed almost 2000 peer-reviewed frequently asked questions (FAQs) on such topics as consumer credit, health finance, home ownership, insurance, legal topics, retirement planning, saving and investing, and estate planning, with more are added daily. The search function on the site connects users to the right FAQ, plus featured resources, a glossary of personal finance terms, and related e-publications. The information is considered the best-of-the best from across the Land-grant University System. Recently added resources include Small Steps to Health and Wealth, Thinking Over an Early Retirement Offer, and Spend Smart Eat Smart.
eXtension Personal Finance also has experts from universities around the country ready to answer questions. With the Ask an Expert (AaE) function, an extension educator will reply online in 48 hours or less with general information, including where to go for more details. Since extension’s role is education, not financial planning or counseling, queries to AaE do not result in specific personal financial advice. Instead, eXtension users get guidance for gaining the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make informed financial decisions on their own, or to know what questions to ask of professionals in the financial service industry. Here are some recent examples of questions:
- What are some ways to invest with small dollar amounts?
- How can I reduce the cost of attending college?
What does it mean to be “upside down” on a car loan?
Overall, eXtension is designed to complement extension’s community-based educational opportunities. Through it, users can connect to local or state extension offices nearest them where face-to-face seminars and workshops may be available.