April 5, 2021

Susan Tompor: April brings virtual tips on student loans, housing, more |

Susan Tompor: April brings virtual tips on student loans, housing, more |


April is a month when most adults are hyper-focused on their money. After all, how can anyone ignore their cashflow situation if they’re waiting for a tax refund or they owe taxes by a typical April 15 deadline?

This year, the federal income tax deadline — and the Michigan state income tax deadline — were both extended until May 17 in light of the ongoing problems relating to COVID-19 and a long list of tax-time challenges.

Even so, financial awareness programs will roll ahead in April, which is the official financial literacy month. Many events, of course, will be online only.

The Federal Reserve of Chicago’s Money Smart Week will be all virtual in 2021, hosting eight webinars from April 10 through April 17. This year’s focus is on reaching consumers who face financial challenges related to COVID-19’s impact on the jobs and the economy.

The live event on April 13, for example, will address “Understanding the Basics of Federal Student Loans” to help parents and students get an overview of federal student loan programs and learn how the federal loan program has adjusted to consider the impacts of COVID-19 on college loan borrowers. See www.moneysmartweek.org.

The student debt presentation also will cover how to create an FSA ID, which is a username and password that gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems. And you can expect information on loan servicers, private student loans, debt relief scam prevention, credit monitoring, and default prevention.

The scheduled speaker is Fred Stennis, supervisor and senior adviser of the customer outreach division for the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid program.

The Michigan Financial Wellness Network will offer online story times in April through local libraries and featuring the book “Give It” by Cinder McLeod. Children will receive a free copy of the book, compliments of Michigan Credit Unions.

Other topics for virtual events include: Tax-related fraud and identity theft on April 14; managing personal finances during COVID-19 on April 15; and housing protection that will highlight resources that can help homeowners and renters during the coronavirus national emergency on April 16.

The shift to the virtual programming was driven by the pandemic and designed to ensure that seminars remain free, open to the public, and provide relevant information, according to a Money Smart Week spokesperson.

Traditional in-person Money Smart Week events were not held in 2020 because of social distancing measures put in place at the start of the pandemic.

This year, banks, financial institutions, financial literacy programs and others can host their own events during April’s Financial Literacy month but they cannot be affiliated with Money Smart Week.

Michigan has offered a long list of pocket-book-related Money Smart Week events ever since 2004. But the pandemic has meant that some popular programs, like the Run for the Money 5K run/walk, won’t return this year.

“We’re figuring out new ways to deliver content,” said Kelly Masters, founder and chair of the Michigan Financial Wellness Network.

Throughout April, the Michigan Financial Wellness Network will offer more than 100 programs. Partners include Ally Financial, the Michigan Credit Union Foundation, Raymond James, and the Michigan Council on Economic Education.

Masters noted that very few things are being done in person in 2021 — activity bags for children will continue to be available at many libraries, for example — and the new effort is not connected with the Federal Reserve.

“We’re not using the Money Smart Week brand.”

Helpful financial literacy programs will be available for everyone from preschoolers to college students and from young couples starting jobs and wanting to buy a new home to retirees who need to manage their money and stretch their savings. No sales pitches are allowed. See www.mifinancialwellness.org.

Michigan’s virtual programs will run the entire month of April.

“I miss the hugs but we’re very, very energized,” Masters said. “Michigan partners, we’re survivors. We’re doing cool stuff.”

Events include contests for students to “Show Your Money Smarts,” money-themed story times for children, and programs on how to save for college.

The Michigan Financial Wellness Network will offer online story times in April through local libraries and featuring the book “Give It” by Cinder McLeod. Children will receive a free copy of the book, compliments of Michigan Credit Unions.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development is holding Smart Money Contests through a sponsorship from the Michigan Education Savings Program and the Michigan Education Trust. First place winners can choose $1,000 toward a MESP and/or MET 529 or $400 cash. Essays must be submitted by April 5 and are due by 11:59 p.m. Entries can be submitted by those who are 9-13 years old as of Jan. 1 and residing in Michigan.

An event focused on how to boost your credit score and reduce your debt will be held at 11 a.m. April 7 by the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency. Also on April 7 a seminar will be held at 2 p.m. on student loans, including information on how to keep your student loans in good standing and understand repayment options. See www.waynemetro.org/housing. Registration will close one day before the event. Other events are planned as well.

Oakland County Michigan Works! is taking advantage of April’s Financial Literacy month to launch a new, year-long series of free, virtual financial wellness workshops. See OaklandCountyMiWorks.com for information on Financial Fitness programs, such as “Realizing the American Dream: Achieving Home Ownership,” “Recognizing and Avoiding Predatory Lending” and “Foiling Identity Theft.”

If you’re dealing with a financial headache — or just trying to learn a a bit more about your money — the webinars can be a great place to start.

(Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at stompor@freepress.com.)

©2021 Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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