December 2000 // Volume 38 // Number 6 // Research in Brief // 6RIB3

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MONEY 2000™: Feedback from and Impact on Participants

This article reports results of the first comprehensive study of MONEY 2000™ participants. The study obtained feedback and impact data from MONEY 2000™ program participants in New Jersey and New York. The sample of 520 MONEY 2000™ respondents had a higher income and educational level than average Americans. The two main reasons that participants enrolled in MONEY 2000™ were to reduce debt and to increase financial knowledge. The most helpful aspect of MONEY 2000™ was the quarterly newsletter, followed by tips/ideas/information, Extension publications, and workshops/classes/conferences. The least helpful aspect was none/nothing, followed by workshops/classes/conferences. Since enrolling in MONEY 2000™, three of every four respondents both increased their savings and decreased their debt and 80% indicated that MONEY 2000™ had an effect on their financial situation. The article also discusses 10 implications for Extension financial educators.

Barbara O'Neill
Family and Consumer Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Newton, New Jersey
Internet address:

Jing Xiao
Associate Professor
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, Rhode Island
Internet address:

Barbara Bristow
Extension Associate
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Ithaca, New York
Internet address:

Patricia Brennan
Family and Consumer Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
Morristown, New Jersey
Internet address:

Claudia Kerbel
Program Development Coordinator
Center For Personal Financial Education
Warwick, Rhode Island
Internet address:

MONEY 2000™ is an Extension program that encourages clientele to improve their financial wellbeing by increasing savings and/or reducing household debt. The objective of MONEY 2000™ is to encourage participants to save and/or reduce debt by a specific dollar amount (e.g., $2,000) by the end of the year 2000 or later. Developed by Rutgers Cooperative Extension in 1995 and first implemented in New Jersey and New York in 1996, MONEY 2000™ is believed to be the only savings education program ever launched in the United States to include a behavioral monitoring component over an extended period of time (O'Neill, 1997).

Participants are asked to set financial goals (i.e., a specific amount of increased savings and/or reduced debt) which, to date, have ranged from several hundred dollars to well into six figures. They are then provided educational services (e.g., quarterly newsletters, classes, state conferences, computer analyses, home study courses, and Web sites) by Extension personnel and surveyed about changes in their asset and debt level every 6 months (O'Neill, 1999). Only changes in financial status are requested, not the actual amount of participants' income, assets, or debt. All new savings dollars are counted, including automated mutual fund deposits and 401(k) plan contributions. Debt reduction includes mortgage principal prepayment and payment of unsecured debts (e.g., credit cards).

To date, the semi-annual reports have indicated significant progress by MONEY 2000™ participants. In New Jersey, where the program was initiated, 1,840 participants had enrolled by June 2000 and reported $5.8 million of aggregated savings and debt reduction. In the 32 states that reported program participation, there were 13,093 participants and a total dollar impact of $15.2 million reported in 16 states (O'Neill, 2000). This number represents a direct increase in the net worth of program participants.

Admittedly, some participants could inflate their self-reported impacts. This is a characteristic of MONEY 2000™ that must be acknowledged. However, short of actually monitoring participants' financial statements, self-reports are the only way to obtain necessary impact data. When personal behaviors, such as money management, are studied, self-reports are commonly used.

There are, however, other ways to measure the success of MONEY 2000™. One is to question participants directly about their experience with the program, including its most and least helpful features, and its impact on their life. This article reports the results of a study of New Jersey and New York MONEY 2000™ participants, including their reasons for enrollment and progress toward financial goals. Ten implications for Extension educators, based on the results of this study, are provided.


Data were obtained from a convenience sample of New Jersey and New York MONEY 2000™ program participants who completed an eight-page mailed survey during the fall of 1998. Participants received the survey from their county Extension office as an enclosure with the fall 1998 issue of MONEY 2000™ News, the quarterly newsletter for program participants. Approximately 2 months were allowed to return the surveys, and incentives were used to encourage participation. Due to funding constraints and reliance on dozens of county Extension offices to reproduce and mail the survey, no additional attempts were made to contact the sampling frame.

Although the due date to return the surveys was December 15, 1998, responses were accepted throughout January 1999. In New Jersey, 309 surveys of the 1,268 originally sent were returned, for a response rate of 24.4%. Of these, six were unusable due to missing data or clerical errors in the administration of the survey, leaving a sample of 303 respondents for analysis. In New York, 217 surveys were returned of the 1,024 originally mailed, a 21.2% response rate. Thus, the total sample for this study consisted of 520 MONEY 2000™ participants, or an adjusted response rate of 22.7% (520/2292).

In other words, slightly more than 20% of persons enrolled in the MONEY 2000™ program in New Jersey and New York at the time that data were collected participated in the study. The questionnaire included items about financial goal attainment, motivation for enrolling in MONEY 2000™, planned and actual changes in financial practices, childhood influences on personal finance knowledge, amount of increased savings and reduced debt, financial resources and obstacles, helpful and least helpful aspects of the MONEY 2000™ program, and learning preferences (i.e., teaching methods and financial topics).

Participants were asked to indicate the length of time they had been enrolled in MONEY 2000™ by checking one of six time frames or indicating that they were unsure or couldn't remember. Almost a third (31.2%) of the sample checked the last option. Of the remainder of respondents, slightly more than a quarter (26.4%) had been enrolled in MONEY 2000™ over 18 months by the time that data were collected. Another 7.4% had participated between a year and 18 months, 17.3% between 6 months and a year, and 17.7% for 6 months or less. Table 1 presents the characteristics of those responding to the questionnaire.

Table 1
Characteristics of Sample*

Characteristic n %
18-24 6 1.2
25-34 76 14.8
35-44 152 29.6
45-54 139 27.1
55-64 85 16.6
65 and over 55 10.7
Less than high school 2 0.4
Completed high school 59 11.5
Some college 102 19.8
2-year degree 75 14.6
4-year degree 163 31.7
Advanced degree 113 22.0
Marital Status
Single without dependent child(ren) 171 33.2
Single with dependent child(ren) 61 11.8
Married without dependent child(ren) 126 24.5
Married with dependent child(ren) 157 30.5
Male 118 23.4
Female 387 76.6
Ethnicity (multiple responses)
White 425 83.5
Native American 9 1.8
Black/African-American 57 11.2
Asian 9 1.8
Hispanic 17 3.3
Other 8 1.6
Household Income
Under $15,000 24 4.8
$ 15,000- $ 30,000 91 18.1
$ 30,001-$ 45,000 112 22.3
$ 45,001- $ 65,000 122 24.3
$ 65,001- $ 100,000 106 21.1
Over $100,000 47 9.4
State of Residence
New Jersey 303 58.3
New York 217 41.7
* Frequencies and percentages are reported exclusive of missing values.

The sample is more affluent and highly educated than Americans on average, with 54.8% reporting a household income over $45,000, compared to a 1997 U.S. median income of $37,005. The 1997 New Jersey and New York median incomes were $48,021 and $35,798, respectively ("Statistical Abstract," 1999). Three of every 10 respondents earned over $65,000, and almost 1 in 10 earned over $100,000, respectively. Over half (53.7%) of all respondents had a 4-year college education or higher, compared to 24.4% of citizens nationwide ("Statistical Abstract,"1999). Disproportionately more females than males completed the survey, as well as a high percentage of baby boomers age 35 to 54 (56.7% of the sample versus 42.6% of the U.S. population). Ethnicity (respondents could check more than one) and marital status more closely track national trends, however, e.g., 83.5% white versus 84% of the U.S. population and 55% married versus 53% of the U.S. population ("Statistical Abstract," 1999).

Reactions to MONEY 2000™

Respondents were asked to indicate the main reason why they enrolled in MONEY 2000™. Over a fifth of the sample checked more than one answer. Thus, the percentages listed below exceed 100%. More than 4 of every 10 (41.7%) checked "to reduce debt," followed by "to increase financial knowledge" (37.6%), "to increase savings" (32.1%), "to increase net worth" (10.0%), and "other" (4.9%).

A large majority of the sample strongly agreed (45.2%) or agreed (42.3%) that the MONEY 2000™ program made them aware of a debt problem. Similarly, over half (57.2%) of respondents strongly agreed, and 38.7% agreed, that it increased awareness of the need to save. MONEY 2000™ also helped to provide motivation to participants to improve their financial situation. Almost half, 45.3% and 49.0%, strongly agreed, and 40.8% and 42.7%, agreed, that the program provided motivation to reduce debt and to save money, respectively. Fewer participants, but still about three-quarters of the sample, indicated happiness with personal progress as a result of MONEY 2000™ enrollment. About a third, 33.3% and 34.6%, strongly agreed, and 39.4% and 43.2%, agreed, that they were happy because MONEY 2000™ helped them to, respectively, reduce their debt and increase their savings.

Three of every four respondents (75.2%) indicated that they set a personal savings goal when they joined MONEY 2000™. The dollar amount of these savings goals ranged from $20 to $100,000, with the modal, or most frequent (49.8%), response being $2,000, followed by $5,000 (12.5%), $1,000 (7.8%), and $10,000 (5.7%). The mean and median savings goals were $4,499 and $2,000, respectively. Progress toward savings goals was reported as follows: "no progress" (13.9%), "a little" (30.5%), "fair amount of progress" (24.5%), and "much progress" (31.1%). Thus, more than half of the sample perceived their personal savings as having improved since their MONEY 2000™ enrollment.

Slightly less than two-thirds (62.6%) of respondents set a MONEY 2000™ debt reduction goal. The dollar amounts of debt reduction goals ranged from $50 to $53,000, with a modal response of $2,000 (25.5%), followed by $5,000 (12.7%), $10,000 (10.8%), and $1,000 (7.8%). The mean and median debt reduction goals were $7,759 and $4,000, respectively. Progress toward debt reduction goals was reported as follows: "no progress" (10.2%), "a little progress" (33.3%), "fair amount of progress" (29.7%), and "much progress" (26.8%). Again, more than half the sample perceived a measure of improvement in their quest to reduce household debt.

Respondents were asked to rate their financial situation at the time they completed the survey to the way it was prior to joining MONEY 2000™ on a scale with five response options. Their feedback was as follows: "much better now" (24.7%), "somewhat better now" (55.8%), "neither better nor worse now" (14.5%), "somewhat worse now" (3.8%), and "much worse now" (1.2%). Thus, fully 8 of every 10 respondents perceived some improvement in their financial situation. Respondents were also asked if MONEY 2000™ had an effect on their financial situation. Again, 8 of every 10 respondents (80.4%) replied in the affirmative. Those who answered yes were asked to explain how the program had affected them. The question was open-ended, and two independent data coders summarized the responses. Table 2 presents the perceived effects of MONEY 2000™.

Table 2 Effect of MONEY 2000™ Program on Survey Respondents

Effect n %*
Awareness/knowledge (of personal finances or money topics) 86 16.6
Increased saving/investing 79 15.2
Provided motivation/reinforcement/structure/support/focus 71 13.7
Reduced debt 61 11.8
Developed/followed a plan or set/acted upon financial goals 33 6.4
Specific financial actions taken by respondents 24 4.6
Provided useful/understandable information/tips/ideas 22 4.2
More control of finances/improved money management practices 19 3.7
Decreased expenses/spending or improved shopping skills 12 2.3
Helpful publications (including quarterly newsletters) 12 2.3
Helped make choices or improved financial decision-making 3 .6
Other responses 23 4.4
No response 152 29.3
* Percentages exceed 100% because multiple responses were provided.

Respondents were asked directly if they had increased their savings since participating in MONEY 2000™. Just under three-quarters (74.3%) said yes. Those who replied yes were asked to list a specific dollar amount. Savings progress ranged from $25 to $120,000, with a modal response of $2,000 (12.7%), followed by $1,000 (11.3%), $1,500 (5.9%), $5,000 (5.9%), $500 (5.4%), and $3,000 (4.5%). The mean and median amounts of reported savings progress were $4,826 and $1,500, respectively.

A similar question was asked about debt reduction, and just over three-quarters (76.2%) of respondents indicated that they had reduced their debt since participating in MONEY 2000™. Here, too, those who replied in the affirmative were asked to list a specific dollar amount. Debt reduction progress ranged from $20 to $121,000, with a modal response of $1,000 (13 %), followed by $2,000 (11.2%), $3,000 (6.7%), and $10,000 (6.7%). The mean and median amounts of reported debt reduction progress were $5,680 and $2,000, respectively.

Respondents were also queried regarding their perception of the most helpful and least helpful aspects of MONEY 2000™. Again, these questions were open-ended, and two independent data coders summarized and categorized the responses. Up to three responses per survey were recorded. Interestingly, some of the responses pertained to aspects of MONEY 2000™ itself (e.g., publications), while others pertained to actions taken by, or effects of the program upon, participants. Table 3 presents the most helpful aspects of MONEY 2000™ in descending order. Responses that garnered the highest response include the quarterly newsletter, MONEY 2000 News (22.5%), followed by tips/ideas/information (15.4%), Extension publications (9.6%), and workshops/classes/conferences (9.6%).

Table 3
Most Helpful Aspects of MONEY 2000™ Perceived by Respondents

Characteristic n %*
MONEY 2000™ News newsletter 117 22.5
Tips/ideas/advice/hints/information for improving finances 80 15.4
Extension publications (various) 50 9.6
Workshops/classes/conferences/seminars 50 9.6
Direction/focus/structure/motivation/accountability 47 9.1
Increased awareness of personal finances or financial topics 41 7.9
Setting/working toward/clarifying financial goals and plans 32 6.2
Extension support services (e.g., answered questions, counseling) 29 5.6
Specific behavioral changes (e.g., started budget, reduced debt) 28 5.4
Increased/reinforced knowledge of financial topics 27 5.2
Reminders and periodic contact/mailings/updates 26 5.0
Nothing helpful or just enrolled 17 3.3
Reports and paperwork/record-keeping/tracking 6 1.2
PowerPay debt reduction analysis/computer printouts 5 1.0
Organized/simplified finances and better record-keeping 2 .4
Other responses 17 3.3
No response 69 13.3
* Percentages exceed 100% because multiple responses were provided.

As for the least helpful aspects of MONEY 2000™, the most frequent response (12.7%) was none/nothing. In addition, almost half (44.5%) of respondents left the item blank. Both responses indicate a high level of satisfaction with the program. The second most frequently mentioned issue (9.1%) was workshops/classes/conferences. Participant comments indicated that it was generally not the quality of these programs that was at fault, but, rather, where and when they were held (i.e., convenience issues). Service-delivery issues (e.g., late mailings, unreturned phone calls), paperwork/reports, and insufficient personal contact were mentioned by 4.8%, 4.6%, and 4.2% of respondents, respectively.

Chi-square tests were conducted between these three variables and respondents' state of residence. New York MONEY 2000™ participants were more likely than New Jerseyans to cite insufficient contact (c2= 4.533, df=1, p=.033) and service-delivery issues (c2= 5.356, df=1, p=.021). Perhaps this is because they paid a $10 fee to enroll and expected more of the program, while New Jersey MONEY 2000™ enrollment was free. Table 4 presents the least helpful aspects of MONEY 2000™ in descending order.

Table 4
Least Helpful Aspects of MONEY 2000™ Perceived by Respondents

Characteristic n %*
None/nothing/NA or indication that everything was helpful 66 12.7
Workshops/classes/conferences/seminars 47 9.1
Service delivery issues (e.g., mailings, returned calls) 25 4.8
Paperwork/periodic reports/record-keeping/research surveys 24 4.6
No or insufficient personal contact or support from Extension 22 4.2
Wanted more information on a specific topic (e.g., taxes) 18 3.5
Personal failure to get involved, change or take action on goals 13 2.5
Personal limitations/difficulties/actions 13 2.5
Debt information/focus/emphasis 11 2.1
MONEY 2000™ /Cooperative Extension publications 7 1.3
Investment information/focus/emphasis 6 1.2
Too basic 6 1.2
Didn't understand information 4 .8
Other responses 37 7.1
No response 231 44.5
* Percentages exceed 100% because multiple responses were provided.


This article reports results of the first comprehensive study of MONEY 2000™ participants. Following are 10 implications for Extension educators.

  1. Helping Clientele Deal with Debt Is Important: Concern about reducing debt was the primary reason for MONEY 2000™ enrollment, and debt reduction goals exceeded savings goals. Services, such as financial counseling and computerized PowerPay debt reduction analyses, should be widely marketed as an incentive to interest new and existing program participants.

  2. Additional Awareness Activities Should Be Developed: Increased awareness of personal finances or money topics was reported frequently. This suggests that worksheets and checklists and other self-assessment-type tools should continue to be developed so that participants can "check how they're doing."

  3. Goal Setting Is a Helpful Program Feature: MONEY 2000™ encourages participants to set and report progress toward a personal goal. This methodology appears to be successful. Numerous positive comments were made about the structure, motivation, and accountability that it provided.

  4. Written Materials Get Noticed: Newsletters and other publications were cited as the most helpful program feature. What people see, they obviously remember. Therefore, it behooves Extension educators to make their printed materials as useful and visually attractive as possible. Web sites, on the other hand, were barely mentioned, even though both states offer comprehensive Web sites.

  5. Class Information Should Be Shared via Other Methods: Respondents who attended classes and conferences found them helpful, while those who felt they were offered at an inconvenient time or location did not. For the latter group, the content of public meetings can be shared via newsletter articles and Web sites so that participants a) don't feel "forgotten" and b) still benefit from the information that is provided.

  6. Paperwork Should Be Reduced: Some participants expressed dissatisfaction with having to complete semi-annual progress reports. Perhaps other methodologies can be used to obtain needed impact data in future "campaign" style programs. One example is surveying a random sample of program participants. This methodology has been used several times in South Carolina to measure the progress of MONEY 2000™ participants (Porter & Christenbury, 1999).

  7. Personal Contact Should Be Increased: Almost 5% of respondents were disappointed with the amount of personal contact that they received. This suggests a need for "personalized" outreach methods, including periodic "support group" meetings, 1:1 financial counseling, and on-line financial advice.

  8. Service Delivery Should Be Improved: Some respondents reported unhappiness with the frequency or timeliness of Extension services. The majority of these comments came from New Yorkers, who were charged an enrollment fee. Whenever a program is marketed statewide or nationally, attention must be paid up-front to service-delivery issues (e.g., "covering" the program where there is an agent or specialist vacancy). This appears to be especially true when a fee is charged for services.

  9. MONEY 2000™ Motivates as Well as Educates: It is clear from survey results that MONEY 2000™ provides motivation as well as education. The structure of the program itself (e.g., goal setting followed by semi-annual progress reports) kept participants focused on their individual financial situation, which, in turn, acted as an incentive to prompt behavioral change.

  10. The MONEY 2000™ Model Can Be Replicated: Other subject matter areas in which Extension delivers programs could replicate the MONEY 2000™ methodology. For example, agricultural agents could assist farmers with developing and monitoring farm business management goals, and nutrition educators could develop appropriate benchmarks (e.g., weight, cholesterol readings) where impact data can be collected and aggregated.


O'Neill, B. (2000, July 13). Updated MONEY 2000 impact data. Message to MONEY 2000™ electronic mail group (

O'Neill, B. (1999). MONEY 2000: Lessons learned for improved program design. Journal of Consumer Education, 17: 14-19.

O'Neill, B. (1997). MONEY 2000: A model for personal finance employee education. Personal Finances and Worker Productivity, 1(1): 76-80.

Porter, N., & Christenbury, J. (1999). Money 2000: A model Extension program. Journal of Extension [On-line]. 37(1). Available:

Statistical Abstract of the United States 1999 (1999). Washington DC: U.S. Bureau of the Census.


Funding to conduct this research was provided by a grant from the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.