- Associated Press - Sunday, December 24, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - A growing number of workplaces in Louisiana including Baker Manufacturing in Pineville are turning to a nonprofit that offers something to help employees personally and professionally - financial literacy.

The national Jump$tart Coalition’s Louisiana affiliate offers free training with the help of partners like the La Capitol Federal Credit Union, which recently provided a live trainer for employees at Baker on the topics of budgeting and managing credit.

Chief Operating Officer Sandra McQuain said seeing the negative impact and cost of employee wage garnishments in the workplace drove home the need for financial education.

“When you’re under financial pressure, it just doesn’t leave,” she said. “Not only does that impact my colleagues’ personal life, that impacts their productivity here, their focus. It’s hard for them to be 100 percent.”

Wage garnishments and trouble managing money can affect employees with all sizes of paychecks, McQuain said. And some of that may go back to a lack of education.

Louisiana was among four states to receive a “D” for teaching personal finance in schools in a recent national study. The report card issued by the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College noted the instruction is no longer mandated for students.

Louisiana Jump$tart was founded in 2003 and also includes school-based training for teachers. The workplace program includes education on savings, credit management, home ownership, debt management, retirement and investment planning and more, according to louisianajumpstart.org.

As a United Way board member, McQuain sees the need for employers to offer financial education from another perspective.

According to the organization’s ALICE Report, 42 percent of Louisiana residents don’t make enough money to afford basic expenses like housing, food, child care and transportation.

Not having money to manage in the first place, McQuain said, means “ALICE is certainly more susceptible to life events and poor financial decision than many of us.”

Finances can be an uncomfortable subject, but McQuain said a hands-on approach makes the training engaging.

For example, during the first course on budgeting employees worked together using calculators and figuring out how to plan with made-up budgets and expenses that could easily be real life.

All of Baker’s 65 employees including upper levels of management attended both courses, and McQuain said there’s interested in adding more.

“It’s been nice to see they felt comfortable having this kind of training,” McQuain said.

McQuain acknowledged it’s an investment on the part of companies whose employees are off the job.

“But our philosophy at Baker,” she said, “was if it can stop one garnishment or help somebody rethink how they’re managing their household budget just for the personal development that will more than pay for itself.”

For more information about Louisiana Jump$tart workforce education, visit louisianajumpstart.org.


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