BY TOM BUSSELBERG
CENTERVILLE – Financial peace is something a lot of people yearn for.
Financial Peace University, offered by Zions First National Bank, is a program geared to making that possible.
The next program in that nine-part series will begin Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Zions Bank Centerville Financial Center, 440 W. Parrish Lane.
The first lesson, called “Super Saving,” is free for those wanting to learn more about the class. Tuition for the full course is $105 per household and includes a big workbook, envelope system for organizing bash, access to lessons online, and lifetime membership to repeat the course.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.endprogram.com.
Financial Peace University was started locally in the early 2000s, back when Utah was being cited as the number one state in the nation for bankruptcies, per capita, said Don Milne.
Milne is a Bountiful resident, writes an occasional financial column for the Clipper, and oversees the program for Zions Bank.
“It’s not good for people, not good for banks, not good for the economy,” to have such a bankruptcy problem, Milne said looking back.
The bank contacted Dave Ramsey, a nationally-syndicated radio host who teaches a program on getting out of debt.
“They were unbelieving at first that a bank would be willing to do such a program to get people out of debt,” Milne said.
“We believe people should be well-informed” on financial issues, he said. “For some it makes sense to take out consumer loans and use credit cards. But others don’t want to be in debt.”
The first class was held at Woods Cross High School in 2003. Eighteen families were involved, including Milne’s family.
“During the three months of the class, the average family paid off over $7,000 in debt and added close to $3,000 in savings,” he said.
Similar results have been reported nationally.
Just over 1,000 classes have been conducted since, and about 50,000 people have attended the classes in Utah and Idaho.
Surveys of bank employees who took the class indicate many have paid off almost $20,000 in debt and added about $10,000 in non-retirement savings. The respondents have also reported increasing 401K contributions by almost 5 percent over what they were doing previously, Milne said.
“When our neighbors (and we ourselves) are doing better financially, it helps all of us. It helps the economy, is a win-win,” he said.
Locally, classes are also being held at a church in Centerville and at the Utah Connections Academy in Woods Cross. Zions partners with such groups on a regular basis to hold classes.
“It’s personally been good for me,” Milne said of the class. “I’m a lifetime banker, have an MBA, a finance background.”
But 20 years into his marriage, the couple had accumulated $26,000 in debt, which is lower than the $40,000 average.
There was a student loan, credit cards, “not because we were living high on the hog, but we spent more than we had,” he said.
Within two years the debt was paid off. The average debt payoff period is two-three years, Milne said.
“We learn behavior change and new habits. It’s not about what you know, it’s what you need,” he said.