There may be, as P.T. Barnum famously said, a sucker born every minute. But a Shelton firm bearing his name is determined to teach people of all ages about how creating a realistic budget, planning for retirement, grasping how credit scores work and the like needn’t be arcane, boring or something that can be put off.
And, in what doubtless would turn P.T. pale, it’s doing so for free.
Barnum Financial Group, which provides financial education in the workplace at hundreds of companies and nonprofits throughout the region, believes it has the answer with The Establishment Barnum, a new approach to financial education and literacy that focuses on young professionals.
“For years we’ve been providing classes that focus on the pre-retirement employees, typically those in their 50s who are starting to get serious about the next phase,” said Barnum Vice President of Marketing and Communications Elizabeth Hiza, who is overseeing the new venture. “But, in addition, we’ve found that the so-called millennials — and even Generation Y — generally have a lack of understanding about personal finance.”
While colleges may teach about the markets and finance in general, “They don’t teach about personal finance,” Hiza continued. “There are some great online resources, which you can learn from, but don’t necessarily give you the tools to apply to your own lives. So, most people have to learn it from their parents,” who themselves may not necessarily be the most well-versed in such topics, she said.
Barnum — which also has offices in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island — is taking the position that teaching people in their 20s how to tackle such topics will benefit them going forward.
The new endeavor — a partnership with Buffalo financial planner The Establishment — will formally commence this month with a launch party at Barnum’s 100 Commerce Drive office on Sept. 17. Classes will feature professionals who are certified not only as financial advisors but also as teachers, to make it “more entertaining and welcoming” than a standard, dry presentation, Hiza said.
Topics include Buying Your First Home, Creating a Budget, Couples and Money and Making Sense of Student Loans. The classes — designed to be purely educational, free of charge and with no sales presentations — will be held in Shelton or on-site at company locations.
The “more entertaining” classes will include Wine and Investing and Understanding Craft Beers and Financial Plans, which combine financial lessons with adult beverages. Attendees will pay only for their imbibing, not for the education.
A soft launch took place on July 25 and drew about 20 people from The Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce FUEL and Bridgeport Regional Business Counsel THRIVE young professional groups. Both are scheduled to return on Sept. 25.
In partnership with the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, Barnum is now working on financial literacy programming for high school girls in Fairfield County. That event, scheduled for next spring, will cover such topics as financial wellness, budgeting and credit.
Hiza said the need for such education has become apparent through research. A recent Bank of America survey found that nearly half of working millennials have $15,000 or more in savings, and 16% have $100,000 or more. Some topics of interest include the stock market and managing an investment portfolio.
And looming over all workers is the retirement savings question. According to a Bankrate survey conducted earlier this year, one in five American adults have nothing saved for retirement or emergencies and another 20% have saved 5% or less of their annual income to meet certain financial goals and less than one-third of all Americans have saved at least 11 percent or more. And while 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, many of them are in worse financial shape than the previous generation for the first time since Harry Truman was president, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
There is a belief among 20-somethings that, with retirement so far away, they needn’t worry about it now, Hiza said.
“And it’s not just them — people in their 40s often have that same attitude,” she added. “It’s a real problem.”
But it’s not all about altruism. The company also offers one-on-one sessions with the teacher-advisers to gain further knowledge on how to apply the lessons to their personal situations, and a significant number of participants have ended up becoming clients, she said.