More than two-thirds of Florida residents are worried about the coronavirus pandemic’s lasting impact on their finances. Adding to the problem, only around a quarter of Floridians say they always follow a monthly budget.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis weighed in on those findings this week as he worked with a coalition of organizations representing financial, insurance, and consumer interests in launching “MoneyWise Florida,” a statewide financial education initiative aimed at helping Floridians get resources and answers for some of the toughest issues they are facing.
With underwriting support from Suncoast Credit Union, Patronis and coalition members shared details of the initiative’s statewide survey of Floridians that reflects widespread concern about the lasting damage the pandemic is causing to the current and future financial health of many families and individuals.
The group unveiled a website –www.MoneyWiseFlorida.com – designed to be a clearinghouse of helpful financial information.
“Financial literacy is key to a strong financial future, and I am excited to launch the statewide MoneyWise Florida initiative,” said Patronis.
“Financial literacy is vital to ensuring Floridians are financially successful, and it is important that we are providing the tools necessary to ensure for a strong financial future,” Patronis added.
“As Floridians continue to face the impacts of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to take advantage of these resources and educate yourself and family on how to manage finances.”
The comprehensive effort is meant to provide practical advice to help millions of Floridians with topics ranging from getting jobs, climbing out of debt, securing a mortgage, saving for a child’s college education, and planning for a secure retirement, among many others.
Joining Patronis and the Florida Department of Financial Services in the MoneyWise Florida initiative include underwriting and sponsorship of the initiative by Suncoast Credit Union; organizational support and partnership by the Florida Credit Union Association; the Florida Insurance Council; the Florida Institute of CPAs; the Florida Prosperity Partnership; the Florida Alliance of Consumers & Taxpayers (FACT); and the Florida Bankers Association.
“Many people are understandably worried about their families’ future because they’re struggling so hard just to make ends meet,” said Kevin Johnson, the president and CEO of Suncoast Credit Union. “Our goal is to help Floridians with direction and answers or suggestions about their toughest problems so they can relieve some of the stress related to this difficult and prolonged period.”
The coalition took a financial issues poll of 2,000 Florida voters between May 1-5, 2020. The poll found:
- More than three-quarters of Floridians (77 percent) say COVID-19 has created “more” financial stress on their households, including 43 percent who say it has caused “significantly more.”
- Since COVID-19 hit, Floridians have adjusted how they address various financial matters, including 13 percent fewer who have put money aside for savings or emergencies and 10 percent fewer who say they have contributed to a retirement plan or IRA.
- Fully 7 in 10 Floridians (70 percent) could not make ends meet for more than six months on savings alone. This number soars to 88 percent for those younger than 35 and 89 percent for minorities.
- As a result of the economic hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, 60 percent say they will be seeking financial advice – including where to find financial relief, how to make savings last longer, and how to deal with debt.
- One-third of respondents (33 percent) say they “often feel I need help understanding financial tasks,” with even higher numbers among younger adults, those without a college education, and minorities (42 percent each).
“The pandemic represents a one-two gut punch for Floridians, bringing deep concerns about both physical and fiscal well-being,” said Lee Hinkle, a director for FACT. “Financial literacy is an important path to help our fellow residents persevere through the difficulties COVID-19 has brought to family finances.”
Even before COVID-19 threw countless households into financial disarray, an earlier survey showed that Floridians faced significant financial challenges even in better times:
- The greatest number of Floridians (60 percent) view saving for retirement as the most stressful aspect of turning 40 years old. That number eclipsed concern about caring for one or more aging parents (49 percent); saving for a child’s college education (39 percent); and even wrinkles, mammograms or colonoscopies (32 percent).
- Floridians are not very confident when it comes to tackling some important financial tasks. Only 14 percent are “highly” confident when choosing and managing investments; just 30 percent when it comes to understanding a 401k or retirement savings account; and only 32 percent of Floridians are highly confident when trying to understand the cost of health care.
- Many residents are struggling with some key financial indicators. Just 37 percent feel they have adequate health, vehicle, life and disability insurance; and only 39 percent say their savings could keep their household afloat for longer than six months.
- Among residents with student loan debt, 60 percent are dealing with at least one type of debt-related burden. They include 41 percent who spend less on entertainment; 38 percent who feel distracted or worried; 29 percent who are adjusting what groceries they buy; and 25 percent who are delaying repairs or maintenance on their cars or property.
Of those ages 18-34 with college debt, a full 47 percent are postponing having a child.
Cecil Pearce, the president of the Florida Insurance Council, said that the initiative aims to be part of the solution for Florida’s families.
“People are asking questions about a number of issues, ranging from do they have enough insurance, will they have enough money set aside for a medical emergency?” said Pearce. “This is just one of the reasons why this initiative is so important. We all need to be there for each other, to offer help, and get through this time together.”
Barry Altland, a partner engagement director with Florida Prosperity Partnership, also weighed in.
“When your financial future is secure, it’s so much easier to deal properly with all the other aspects of life. MoneyWise Florida will be an invaluable resource to help Floridians navigate COVID-19 and get on the path toward prosperity and happiness,” Atland said.
Deborah Curry, the president and CEO of FICPA, said Florida families “need a reliable source for financial information and sound advice, and that’s the purpose of MoneyWise Florida.”
“Learning how to manage and make the most of your income, how to survive possibly prolonged unemployment, how to draw down financial assistance – all of these and more are issues we’re trying to help address,” she added.
The MoneyWise Florida initiative will offer a wide range of free resources through the website, and will also feature a series of informational videos later this year. It’s all part of a comprehensive effort to help Floridians make the best financial decisions for themselves and their families.
“No one wants to struggle financially. We all want to provide a better life for our families, and the economic downturn has everyone thinking about how to chart a new path forward,” said Alex Sanchez, the president of the Florida Bankers Association. “Learning how to better manage your finances in the new economic reality will be one of the smartest things you can do for yourself and your family.”
Reach Ed Dean at email@example.com.