Viewpoint: Financial literacy is a skill set for life as well as business

“Back to School” time is a great time for not only kids but their parents and other adults – including business owners and execs – to give some thought to what tools in their tool kit need some sharpening.

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey’s classic first published in 1989, is both a business and a self-help book.

I view it as a contender for the most transformative business book in the last generation, and I find myself back in it quite often. And recommending it. My favorite habits to discuss?

  • No. 2: Begin with the End in Mind!
  • No. 7: Sharpen the Saw!

And it’s No. 7 that drives this column. 

A Google search on a project last week led me to a seemingly obscure national professional society, the Financial Therapy Association, which describes its process as “informed by both therapeutic and financial competencies that helps people think, feel and behave differently with money to improve overall well-being through evidence-based practices and interventions.”

I spent an hour or two on its site, consuming that content, and, at the end, I signed up as a member. The cornerstone of my work for the last few decades has been helping businesses, owners and organization’s leaders grow their businesses, and, when they’re ready, transitioning them, sometimes via sale.

Everyone has their own weaknesses, but it’s amazing how often financial management – including capital management – is an Achilles’ heel for business owners and executives, even MBAs.

My wife and I often joke that as a society we teach our kids more about sex than about money. And, frankly, that’s no joke. We need to be doing more. Here in Delaware we have four or five resources that deserve note: 

The University of Delaware Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship was founded four decades ago by business school professor James O’Neill, it’s headed today by his successor, professor Carlos Asarta, and its board of directors is headed by Hagley President David Cole. Its primary area of action is what I call “influencers,” particularly social studies teachers who have the opportunity to take programs to their students (e.g., the Stock Market Game and Mini-Society).

The Delaware Money School goes back about three decades, and it was founded and is run by Ronni Cohen, actually one of the teachers who became the UDCEEE’s most notable alum. Based in the Claymont Community Center, it provides a range of educational and development resources to adults and families.

Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) is a national program run in Delaware by Don Rowe via Brandywine Valley Baptist Church. Focus of Ramsey and FPU is getting rid of debt in life and planning your finances, in part by budgeting and building reserves.

Junior Achievement Delaware, located just south of the Amtrak station near the 76ers new arena, and headed in recent years by Rob Eppes, has built an array of really great programs to help young people understand business-building. It also helps operate the Delaware Business Hall of Fame.

SCORE and SBDC, of course, are two other agencies that have long track records of providing education and services to business owners, including early-stage entrepreneurs. 

Over the last 25-30 years, I’ve been involved with each of these groups somehow, even taking the FPU course almost a decade ago, just working on “my own toolkit.” I’ve attended workshops from both SCORE and SBDC and I’ve volunteered in teaching workshops for SBDC. (One of its “success stories,” Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione, was in a marketing workshop I did several months before he launched
his brewery 25 years ago!)

When it comes to thinking about your year-end contributions, all of these are worthy of your support. 


Sam Waltz was the founding publisher of the Delaware Business Times.

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