New UF Publication Aims to Help Families Manage Financial Difficulties

Mike Gutter poses with the booklet 'Managing in Tough Times'
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To help families struggling to make ends meet, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has published a new bottom-line guide to personal finances. Titled “Managing in Tough Times,” the 40-page booklet is available free at county extension offices and online at fycs.ifas.ufl.edu.

The booklet was created in response to recent economic woes, said Nayda Torres, a professor and chairwoman of UF’s family, youth and community sciences department.

“Families are faced with making difficult choices as the cost of living continues to increase but their income does not,” Torres said.

Published in English and Spanish, the booklet contains 18 chapters, addressing topics from savings and teen employment to stress and low-cost entertainment. Each chapter was written by UF experts in the subject.

But users will need to do more than read the booklet, they’ll need to take action, said Michael Gutter, a family, youth and community sciences assistant professor who led the project.

For example, one of the most important steps in financial management is determining your net worth, which means taking stock of assets and liabilities, Gutter said. The process may take a little time, but it provides a road map for progress.

“We encourage people to assess their situation right now,” he said. “But we also want them to look ahead just a bit.”

That means finding ways to increase income and reduce expenses, the keys to building wealth. Much of the booklet is devoted to ideas on prioritizing debts and handling them more efficiently, saving money on basic needs, and finding overlooked sources of income.

Unlike most UF extension publications, “Managing in Tough Times” is the size of an address book and printed on tough card-stock pages held together with a ring binder. It was designed this way to encourage users to carry it with them, Gutter said.

Family, youth and community sciences faculty had been discussing the idea of a bottom-line financial project for some time, he said. But the booklet was created at the request of IFAS Dean for Extension Larry Arrington, who was concerned about recent events.

“As we looked around the state at the pressures facing families as a result of energy costs, rising living expenses and the number of families struggling with mortgages, we decided that a quick reaction was necessary,” Arrington said.

Department faculty and extension personnel are planning an education program for Florida residents based on the booklet, Gutter said. The program, emphasizing discussion and practical activities, will be available at extension offices beginning later this year.

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