December 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 6 // Feature Articles // 6FEA3

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MONEY 2000 Participants: Who Are They?

This study was conducted to determine if there were any statistically significant differences between MONEY participants and others who attended three Extension personal finance conferences. The sample consisted of 124 MONEY 2000 program participants and 101 others. Using chi-square analysis, no significant demographic differences were found between the two groups of respondents. Significant differences were found at the .05 level, however, for action taken and/or planned to invest funds wisely and to set financial goals and objectives. A third significant difference was paying more than the minimum due on credit cards. A more powerful Mantel-Haenszel chi-square test for ordinal data found one significant difference between the two groups of respondents with respect to paying bills on time.

Barbara O'Neill
Department of Family and Consumer Sciences
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Newton, New Jersey
Internet Address:

Barbara Bristow
Department of Policy Analysis and Management
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Ithaca, New York

Patricia Q. Brennan
Department of Family and Consumer Sciences
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Morristown, New Jersey

More than three dozen state Cooperative Extension organizations have launched, or soon will, the MONEY 2000 program as a method to increase the financial well-being of consumers. The objective of MONEY 2000 is that participants will set a goal to increase savings and/or reduce debt by the end of the year 2000 or later (O'Neill, 1997). A goal of $2,000 of savings increase and/or debt reduction by December 31, 2000, is suggested.

MONEY 2000 was launched by Rutgers Cooperative Extension in New Jersey in 1996. New York also initiated a MONEY 2000 campaign in 1996. Other states have followed suit as the program has gained momentum. To date, more than 1,600 New Jersey participants have increased their net worth by about $3 million. Nationwide, about 8,000 participants are enrolled and have increased savings or reduced debt by over $5 million. MONEY 2000 is believed to be the only savings education program ever launched in the U.S. with a behavioral monitoring component over an extended period of time.

As the MONEY 2000 program has expanded, interest by state and national media and Extension stakeholders has increased. Common questions asked by reporters, Extension funding agencies, and administrators are "What are the characteristics of program participants?", and "Who are they and are they any different than the general adult population?"

This study was conducted to determine if there were any statistically significant differences between MONEY 2000 participants and others interested in personal finance with respect to five demographic characteristics and various financial behaviors. Data for this study were collected at three all-day MONEY 2000 conferences held in the New York metropolitan area in November 1997. The sample consists of 124 MONEY 2000 program participants and 101 others who attended one of the sessions.


A convenience sample of 248 conference participants completed questionnaires for this study at three conference sites in two states. Incentives were used to encourage participation. Of those responding, 23 did not indicate whether or not they were a MONEY 2000 participant, thereby reducing the number of usable surveys for this analysis to 225. Slightly more than half (55.1%) of respondents were enrolled in MONEY 2000 at the time the data were collected. Demographic data about the sample are as follows:

Table 1
Demographic Characteristics of Sample
18-24 6 2.7
25-34 28 12.4
35-44 66 29.3
45-54 58 25.8
55-64 45 20.0
65 and over 22 9.8
White 177 80.1
Native American 2 .9
African-American 25 11.3
Asian 3 1.4
Hispanic 12 5.4
Other 2 .9
Less than H.S. 2 .9
Completed H.S 19 8.5
Some college 39 17.3
2-year degree 22 9.8
4-year degree 68 30.2
Advanced degree 75 33.3
Under $15,000 6 2.8
$15,001-$30,000 27 12.5
$30,001-$45,000 40 18.5
$45,001-$65,000 56 25.9
$65,001-$100,000 54 25.0
Over $100,000 33 15.3
Marital Status
Single w/o child 74 33.0
Single with child 27 12.1
Married w/o child 61 27.2
Married w/ child 61 27.2
Other 1 .5

Clearly, this is a more affluent sample than national averages, with two-thirds of respondents earning more than $45,000, compared to a 1997 national median income of $37,005 (Schlesinger, 1998). It is also more highly educated, with 64% of respondents holding a 4-year college degree or higher, compared with 23.6% of all Americans ("Statistical Abstract," 1997), and over 90% with some post-high school education. Ethnicity and marital status, on the other hand, more closely track national averages and, like the country as a whole, there is a large block of middle-aged baby boomers in the 34-44 and 45-54 age categories.

The one thing all respondents had in common was an interest in personal finance. Everyone devoted a Saturday to attend one of the conferences and, in some cases, drove a distance to get there. In the larger sampling frame of 248 respondents, the primary reasons given for attending the conference were interest in workshop topics (36.7%), desire to increase savings (36.3%), desire to reduce debt (22.6%), interest in hearing the keynote speaker (12.9%), and other (12.9%). These percentages exceed 100% because multiple responses were given to this question.


Chi-square analyses were conducted to determine if differences exist between MONEY 2000 participants and others interested in personal finance with respect to age, ethnicity, education, income, and marital status. Chi-square is a nonparametric test used as a measure of association between categorical variables. It is a test of independence used to either accept or reject the null hypothesis that there are no significant differences between an observed number and an expected number of responses falling in each category. The null hypothesis for this study was that there is no difference between MONEY 2000 participants and others with respect to the five demographic characteristics.

A second analysis was conducted to determine if differences exist between MONEY 2000 participants and others with respect to 11 items that describe actions taken or planned to manage personal finances. These items were based on the transtheorethical model of behavior change (Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992).

The premise of this theory is that self-change is a gradual process that occurs in defined stages based on an individual's readiness to change. The model is called transtheoretical because it has been shown that individuals appear to move predictably from stage to stage. Specific theories or treatment methods are applicable at different stages of the change process. The six stages of change are: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. Each stage entails certain mental and even physical changes to be completed.

Prochaska et al (1992) have developed an assessment method using statements about whether and when behavioral change is planned. Additionally, there seem to be specific teaching or facilitating strategies that may be employed at different stages that assist an individual in moving to the next level of readiness for change (Prochaska, Norcross, & DiClemente, 1994, Bristow, 1997). The rationale for studying differences with respect to readiness for change is that enrollment in MONEY 2000 involves a commitment toward personal behavior change. MONEY 2000 participants may be in the action stage of change while those not enrolled may at the contemplation or preparation stages.

The final test in this study was done to determine if differences exist between MONEY 2000 participants and others with respect to 20 items that describe current financial practices. Again, the null hypothesis was that there was no difference between MONEY 2000 participants and other respondents.


Of the 36 tests performed to address the research questions listed above, only three were shown to be statistically significant: two items pertaining to actions taken or planned and one current financial practice item. As indicated in Table 2, there were no statistically significant differences found between MONEY 2000 participants and other conference attendees with respect to four of the five demographic characteristics noted above. The test for ethnicity was also not significant but over half of the cells had counts less than 5, making chi-square an unreliable test.

Table 2
Chi-Square Analysis:
Demographic Data and MONEY 2000 Participation
Characteristic x2 DF Probability
Age 3.750 5 N.S.
Education 6.877 5 N.S.
Income 5.822 5 N.S.
Marital Status 7.764 4 N.S.
N.S. = Not Significant

Eleven tests were done to determine differences in readiness for behavioral change between MONEY 2000 participants and other respondents. For each of the 11 items that were tested, respondents were asked to indicate, on a five-part Likert-type scale, whether a specific financial management task (such as making a spending plan) was not a problem/challenge or had been addressed previously, action was taken to address the issue within the last six months, action was planned within the next month, action was planned within the next six months, or no action/change was planned.

Two items were statistically significant at the .05 level of significance: investing funds wisely (x2 = 11.462, DF = 4, p = .022) and setting financial goals and objectives (x2 = 11.299, DF = 4, p = .023). The latter is not surprising, since setting a personal savings and/or debt reduction goal is a feature of MONEY 2000 and requested of participants upon enrollment. Deciding to enroll in MONEY 2000 and commit to the establishment of a financial goal is an action step toward behavioral change.

Of the 218 respondents who completed the question on investing, 50 of 123 (40.7%) MONEY 2000 participants and 31 of 95 (32.6%) others indicated that investing wisely was not a problem or that they had taken action within the past six months to address this issue. Another 48 (39%) and 56 (58.9%) of MONEY 2000 participants and others, respectively, planned behavioral changes within one or six months.

Of the 216 respondents who completed the question on goal-setting, 57 of 120 (47.5%) MONEY 2000 participants and 28 of 96 (29.2%) others indicated that setting financial goals was not a problem or that they had taken action within the past six months. Interestingly, 47 (39.2%) of MONEY 2000 participants said they planned to take action within the next one or six months, although presumably they had done this upon enrollment.

Perhaps this response indicated a desire to further define or change a previously-set MONEY 2000 objective. Another possibility is that participants may have entered the program before they were ready to set an initial financial goal. Of the other respondents not participating in MONEY 2000, 58 (60.4%) planned to set financial goals within six months. According to the transtheoretical model of change, these individuals are in the preparation stage of behavioral change.

Table 3 contains the chi-square statistics for the 11 behavioral change items. The scale used for responses to these items was based on previous empirical studies of the transtheoretical model of behavior change (Prochaska et al, 1992, 1994), which has been tested extensively for behavioral change related to weight loss, smoking cessation, and substance abuse. Recently, this model has been suggested for use in studying changes in financial management behavior (Kerkman, 1998, Bristow, 1997).

Table 3
Chi-Square Analysis: Behavioral Changes and MONEY 2000 Participation
Financial Management Behavior x2 DF Probability
Organizing home records 5.156 4 N.S.
Tracking income and spending .182 4 N.S.
Making a spending plan 6.097 4 N.S.
Overcoming overspending habits 4.968 4 N.S.
Investing funds wisely 11.462 4 .022 **
Saving money for long-term goals 7.917 4 .095 *
Paying bills on time 5.151 4 N.S.
Reducing credit card debt 2.228 4 N.S.
Setting financial goals & objectives 11.299 4 .023 **
Evaluating my financial situation 4.439 4 N.S.
Reducing household expenses 3.829 4 N.S.
* = p < .10
** = p < .05

The final analysis tested for differences between MONEY 2000 participants and others with respect to 20 common financial practices (for example, "I set financial goals"). Respondents were asked to indicate, using a five-part Likert-type scale, whether they performed these practices almost always, always, sometimes, seldom, or almost never. The only item that was statistically significant at the .05 level was "I pay more than the minimum due on credit card bills each month" (x2 = 10.562, DF= 4, p = .032). Of 119 MONEY 2000 participants who completed this item, 81 (68.1%) indicated "almost always" or "often", compared to 76 of 99 (76.8%) non-participants. The item "I set aside money for a retirement plan (e.g., IRA)" was significant at the .10 level of significance (x2 = 7.79, DF =4, p = .100).

Table 4 contains the chi-square statistics for the 20 items.

Table 4
Chi-Square Analysis:
Financial Practices and MONEY 2000 Participation
Current Financial Practice (I...) x2 DF Probability
Feel in control of financial situation 3.730 4 N.S.
I'd rather live for today 2.637 4 N.S.
Set financial goals (e.g., retirement) 5.141 4 N.S.
Save some money to reach long-term goals 2.267 4 N.S.
Have enough money to meet expenses 1.769 4 N.S.
Know amount spent on flexible expenses 5.383 4 N.S.
Follow a budget or spending plan 6.207 4 N.S.
Go a month without balancing checkbook 2.282 4 N.S.
Am satisfied with record-keeping system 3.217 4 N.S.
Comparison shop: credit/fincl. services 2.451 4 N.S.
Immediately record deposits, withdrawals 5.754 4 N.S.
Pay more than minimum on credit cards 10.562 4 .032 **
Able to make changes to improve finances 5.563 4 N.S.
Pay credit cards in full each month 2.013 4 N.S.
Carry over a balance on credit card 1.131 4 N.S.
Pay bills on time 4.298 4 N.S.
Buy on impulse 4.065 4 N.S.
Have too many events/emergencies 1.804 4 N.S.
Have money set aside for emergencies 5.237 4 N.S.
Set aside money for a retirement plan 7.779 4 .100 *
* = p < .10
** = p < .05

A second, more powerful, test called the Mantel-Haenszel chi-square was also used to study differences between MONEY 2000 participants and others. While chi-square tests for any differences between groups, the Mantel-Haenszel test looks for increasing or decreasing trends among categories of ordinal data. None of the significant differences reported above were significant at the .05 level using the Mantel-Haenszel test. This indicates that there was not a consistent pattern to the five responses, although there was a significant difference between the two groups.

The only item that tested significantly using Mantel-Haenszel chi-square was "I pay bills on time" (x2 = 3.880, DF = 4, p = .049). Fewer MONEY 2000 participants (83.5%) than others (91%) answered "almost always" or "often" to this item. Another item relating to action planned or taken regarding "Evaluating my financial situation" was significant at the .10 level of significance (x2 = 3.602, DF = 4, p = .058).

Conclusions and Implications

This study was conducted to determine whether or not significant differences exist between MONEY 2000 participants and other adults who indicated an interest in personal finance by attending a Cooperative Extension conference open to MONEY 2000 participants and the general public. While generalization of results is limited due to data that were drawn from a non-random sample in a small geographic area, MONEY 2000 participants in this study did not differ demographically from other adults interested in personal finance. Thus, there may be factors other than demographic differences which lead some individuals to enroll in a program such as MONEY 2000 while others do not. While this sample, as a whole, had relatively high incomes and educational levels, MONEY 2000 participants did not differ significantly from other respondents.

Where MONEY 2000 participants did differ significantly from others was in readiness to make behavior change, specifically actions taken and planned to invest wisely and set financial goals. For both investing wisely and goal-setting, a greater percentage of MONEY 2000 participants than others had taken action on these issues or indicated that they were not a problem. Conversely, more of the non-participants planned future behavioral changes related to investing and goal-setting. With respect to the question on goal-setting, the difference between the two groups of respondents is probably at least partially explained by the fact that setting a savings and/or debt reduction goal is an entrance requirement of the MONEY 2000 program.

For those coordinating MONEY 2000 outreach efforts, sensitivity to participants' readiness for behavioral change is important. Individuals in the preparation and action stages of change will probably be more attracted to enrollment in MONEY 2000 and utilization of educational services than others who are not ready for change. Continued marketing and outreach activities may reach those who have yet to realize the need to change, moving them to the contemplation stage. At that point, program delivery strategies such as seminars, newsletters, and Web sites can help these individuals decide that a change is in order, thus leading to the preparation stage.

Additional Extension programming covering investing and financial goal-setting is advisable to meet the needs of those with planned behavior changes (such as the purchase of stock) and those who have yet to realize the need to change (for example, set specific financial goals). In a previous study (O'Neill, 1998) utilizing the entire sampling frame, strong interest in investment topics and retirement planning was indicated by respondents. Joo and Garman (1998) also found these topics to be of greatest interest in a study of workplace financial education needs.

The third behavior where there was a significant difference between MONEY 2000 participants and others was paying more than the minimum due on credit cards. The higher percentage of non-participants than MONEY 2000 enrollees repaying more than the minimum due on debts is not surprising since debt reduction is a stated objective of MONEY 2000. Persons experiencing financial difficulty may have enrolled in MONEY 2000 as a way to address this concern. It is also possible that those motivated to join MONEY 2000 are in more serious financial difficulty than those who have not enrolled.

On the other hand, similar low percentages of respondents in both groups said they "seldom" or "almost never" pay more than the minimum due. This indicates that a majority of those sampled were taking action to accelerate debt repayment. Results of the Mantel-Haenszel chi-square indicated significant differences with respect to paying bills on time. A high percentage of respondents in both groups met their obligations in a timely manner, however, indicating that this personal finance behavior has already been addressed.

This study is the first empirical investigation of participants in the MONEY 2000 program and how they compare with others interested in personal finance. Clearly, there are complex issues involved in changing personal financial management behaviors and this study has only begun to address them. With increasing numbers of Extension personnel involved in the MONEY 2000 program, questions about the characteristics of program participants are more likely from media, stakeholders, and potential participants. Results of this study can help answer questions posed by interested parties and inform future personal finance education initiatives.


The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Tebbie Clift and Martha Shortlidge for assistance with the collection of data and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences for their financial support of this study through the 1997 Ruth O'Brien Project Grant.


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