Significant Issue Statement
Increasing Rates of Financial Instability among Families, Individuals and Seniors
The current economic crisis facing New Hampshire, the nation and the world has made every individual and
family vulnerable to potential financial instability due to job loss and the rising costs for basic survival, such
as food, transportation, heating, and health care. Particularly at risk though, are people with already low
income levels, retirees who rely on Social Security or pension incomes, and immigrant populations new to our
Further, New Hampshire agriculture and natural resource-based industries are viable, dynamic and integrated
within New Hampshire’s communities; providing diverse products and services; stewards of more than a half
million New Hampshire acres; and a major influence on the state’s character and quality of life. (NH Dept. of
Agriculture, Markets, and Food, 2008). The sustainability of our farms and forests is dependent upon the
economic strength of farm/rural families. Being better money managers and educated consumers makes our
farm families more resilient and improves the likelihood our farms will survive and the rural landscape of
New Hampshire will be preserved.
Public Value in Addressing the Issue:
Personal finance and farm/forest management programs with research-based, well-designed curriculum lead
to financial choices that increase financial stability and reduce the probability a family will need public
Adequate financial assets provide security and have vast economic and social effects on communities, families, and
children. Financial assets can result in less economic strain on households, more financial resiliency, more educational
attainment, less marital dissolution, less risk of poverty spanning across generations, better overall health and
satisfaction, higher property values and stability in a neighborhood, improved property maintenance, and more citizen
involvement in civic issues.
Helping New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens have more economic opportunities will benefit every
community by letting the citizens continue to be independent of government aid and benefits. New
immigrants who can be productive will benefit their own home economy as well as the community in which
Too many individuals and families are experiencing financial crisis because of inadequate savings, too much debt, and
poor planning for potential major life events. On average, U.S. households carry about $8,000 in credit card debt, up
two-thirds compared to a decade ago. More than half of Americans report living paycheck to paycheck. During the
past decade, the rate of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. rose by 69 percent.
Several behaviors stand in the way of significant asset accumulation. Credit card debt is on the rise. In the U.S., the
rate of personal savings as a percentage of disposable personal income, is among the lowest of any industrialized
nation. Another concern is the estimated 10 million U.S. households that do not have a deposit account or any
relationship with the formal financial services sector. These households often are female, single parent, African
American or Hispanic, less educated, characterized by low levels of net worth and home ownership, and with
impaired credit histories.
In New Hampshire, a Farm Viability Task Force was convened to address the need to promote the strength
and vitality of the state’s agricultural sector, in recognition of its role in the state’s food system, economy, and
Family spending plans are often an area of low priority for many farm families. As a result, family living
expenses may occur that exceed the available income resulting in a conflict with the overall financial goals of
the farm and of the family. Increasing costs and decreasing revenues, limited or no planning for farm
continuation and limited resources to weather financial storms, all threaten the survival of many New
Hampshire farms. Current risks to sustainable agriculture in New Hampshire are likely to be felt by all due to
the interdependency of farm, family, business and community. The option to sell farm land to development
looms large as the only alternative for farm families.
UNH Cooperative Extension Programs Addressing the Issue
Personal Money Management – Several UNH Cooperative Extension programs provide education to
individuals on money management, including workshops and a newsletter series that teach people the
importance of setting financial goals, distinguishing between needs and wants, increasing savings and
reducing debt and understanding how best to manage credit. In addition, workshops are available for
individuals in retirement and estate planning.
Youth and Money – UNH Cooperative Extension Programs and curriculum are available to parents and
educators that help kids (from very young to teens) learn about money management and establish good money
eXtension.org – UNH Cooperative Extension is part of a national web portal for a wide array of resources for
individuals and families who want to do a better job of managing their money. Managing Money in Tough
Times (http://www.extension.org/pages/Financial_Security:_Managing_Money_in_Tough_Times) provides
tips and resources on things like managing adult children who move home, coping with the stress of financial
hardship, as well as information about insurance, home ownership and consumer credit.
Home food production - The UNHCE Education Center is staffed by well trained volunteers (Master
Gardeners) who answer questions and emails every day from families who want to grow their own food in an
effort to save money on their grocery bills.
Agricultural Resources educators and specialists work with farm families across the state to not only manage
their farms but to manage their personal finances as well. Taking Charge of Family Farm Finances is a
program that teaches farm families the importance of paying as much attention to their family finances as
their business finances.
UNHCE programs and one-on-one consultations with farm families help them to negotiate the legal and
personal considerations in transferring farm ownership from generation to generation.
Forest Resource educators work with individual landowners to manage their land and make decisions about
selling timber to augment their income. In addition, UNHCE has a comprehensive web presence to guide
people in making decisions about understanding tax laws and regulations that guide timber sales, but also
provides them with information about hiring professionals to help them mark trees for sale.
UNHCE Financial Instability Team:
Suzann Knight – Chair
Mike Sciabarrasi Seth Wilner Karyn Blass
Mike Koski Karen Bennet
The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
University of New Hampshire, U.S. Department of Agriculture and N.H. counties cooperating.