Archive for December, 2009

Homepage Box #3

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
The Benny Award
Wealth Watchers recognizes financial literacy efforts made by outside organizations with the annual “Benny” award. The winners are…

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Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
Savings Calculators

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Homepage Box #1

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Alice Wood

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McDonald’s(R) USA and Visa Inc. Launch America’s Largest Employer-Based Financial Literacy Initiative Money Management Tools Made Available to More Than Half a Million McDonald’s Employees

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

December 04, 2008: 08:00 AM EST

In an effort to empower employees with free, comprehensive money management tools, McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Visa Inc. have launched the country’s largest employer-based financial literacy program. The "McDonald’s Practical Money Skills" program is being made available to more than 500,000 restaurant-level employees throughout the majority of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

As part of this program, employees will receive a printed Wealth Watchers® budgeting guide to track expenses and access to an instructional video and web resource center at with additional tools and information. The materials, which are based on Visa’s popular "Practical Money Skills for Life" financial education program, are being made available in both English and Spanish.

"Empowering Americans with the knowledge they need to make informed financial decisions is crucial," said Bill Sheedy, President, North America, Visa Inc. "A challenge of this size requires an equally large response, which is why we are proud to be working with McDonald’s on this innovative financial literacy program for their employees."

"The McDonald’s Practical Money Skills program is part of our ongoing commitment to provide a wide-range of benefits to our employees," said Steve Russell, Chief People Officer, McDonald’s USA. "Providing information and educating our employees about the importance of financial responsibility has become increasingly important — now more than ever."

During these challenging economic times, the state of financial literacy in America has become increasingly important. A survey released earlier this year by the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy showed that a majority of high school seniors in American failed a test on basic personal finance.

In addition to the tools available through its work with Visa, many McDonald’s restaurants offer a number of other benefits to employees, such as:

—  McDonald’s Insurance Program: Provides employees the option to participate in health, dental, prescription, life, vision, and short-term disability plans, to assist them in paying for healthcare expenses.

—  McDonald’s Gold Card: A discount program that helps employees save money on everyday   purchases at multiple retailers nationwide.

—  McResource Line: An Employee Assistance Program that provides help on work-life issues    such as child care, transportation, and housing.  It also provides assistance in financial areas   including credit counseling, debt consolidation, financial planning and bill           payments.

—  McDirect Shares®, McSave®, Credit Union and 401k Plans: Allow employees to invest and save money for their future.

Since 1996, Visa’s free "Practical Money Skills for Life" and "What’s My Score" financial literacy programs have helped millions of Americans master the fundamentals of budgeting, saving and the wise use of credit. More than 20 state governments have officially distributed Visa’s personal finance educational programs to every public high school in those states, at no cost to the taxpayers. As part of this ongoing commitment to financial literacy, Visa has pledged to reach an additional 10 million people worldwide by 2013 with personal finance education.


About McDonald’s
McDonald’s USA, LLC is the leading foodservice provider in the United States serving a variety of wholesome foods made from quality ingredients to millions of customers every day. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s 13,700 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local franchisees. For more information about McDonald’s visit

About Visa, Inc.
Visa Inc. operates the world’s largest retail electronic payments network providing processing services and payment product platforms. This includes consumer credit, debit, prepaid and commercial payments, which are offered under the Visa, Visa Electron, Interlink and PLUS brands. Visa enjoys unsurpassed acceptance around the world, and Visa/PLUS is one of the world’s largest global ATM networks, offering cash access in local currency in more than 170 countries. For more information, visit

©2008 McDonald’s

Danya Proud
McDonald’s USA
Email Contact

Angela Waugaman
CRC PR for Visa Inc.
703-683-5004 x133
Email Contact


Focus placed on finances for 13- to 33-year-olds

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Chicago Sun-Times | Nov 21, 2009

Edward Sandrick wants his 20-something peers to understand the value of saving and handling money, and he intends to offer the advice online.  Sandrick, 25, of Naperville, on Friday won third place and a grant from, a nonprofit group aimed at increasing civic activity by the millennial generation — ages 13 to 33 — so he can create downloadable spending and wealth diaries for cell phones, handheld devices, smart phones and other computers.

Edward SandrickEdward Sandrick, whose mom, Alice Wood founded Wealth Watchers International, has entered a contest for a grant that would allow the company to offer its money-management programs as downloadable programs for smart phones, computers, laptops and personal hand-helds like Blackberries and iPhones.
(Rich Hein/Sun-Times)

A total of $25,000 will be divided among the five winners.

"I am honored because every proposal was well-done," said Sandrick, who was awarded the grant while attending the first Chicago summit on young people’s finances co-produced and co-sponsored by and the nonprofit Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which aims to increase awareness of the economic issues facing young people.

The summit was meant to help the millennials take charge of their financial well-being and to identify economic issues that young people face, such as student-loan debt, credit-card debt, high unemployment rates and lack of health insurance coverage.

The other winners, starting with first place, include Daniel Kaufman, who proposed asking people to donate 1 percent of their yearly incomes to a philanthropic cause; Eric Heis’ Web-based video game to raise fiscal awareness among millennials; Alicia Holmes’ financial literacy program for 17- to 19-year-olds and a Skype-enabled educational partnership between colleges and high schools, and Chris Golden and Nick Troiano’s "volun-tweet" application to measure the impact of volunteerism through social networking.

"I want to create an electronic version of a ‘Wealth Watchers’ journal so people can set goals for spending and determine down to the day what they can spend without going into debt," Sandrick said.

Sandrick knows only too well the story behind the Wealth Watchers’ journal. His mother, Alice Wood, suffered a brain injury after her oxygen mask failed in an emergency and she was without oxygen during an airline flight from Colorado back home to Chicago nine years ago.

Wood started making mistakes with money — a frightening development that led her to start writing down every single thing she spent.

"She would forget my name or call me by my brother’s name. She did mindless things that amounted to a big problem," Sandrick said.

Wood was able to get treatment, but in her struggle to recover, she founded Wealth Watchers International (, a program based on the tenants of Weight Watchers and aimed at helping people track their spending and start saving.

Wood, an estate-planning attorney, has written Wealth Watchers: A Simple Program to Help You Spend Less and Save More, due out in January ($19.95 in paperback).

Sandrick says young people get a skewed sense of spending because swiping a credit card gives a false sense of wealth. And the average millennial who has graduated college is carrying $27,000 in student-loan debt.

Keeping the journal "is about daily accountability to yourself," and can help young people understand where they are spending money, he said.

"I’m not under the impression that Wealth Watchers will solve everything, but it’s going to take individual accountability" to get people to return to savings and get through today’s tough economic times, Sandrick said.

The Peterson Foundation has created online tools of its own to get kids to realize the consequences of their spending.

A Debt Ski video game ( features a piggy bank pig riding a jet ski, and challenges young people to avoid destructive financial behavior. Players maneuver the character, Piggy Banks, through obstacles to limit his debt, increase his savings, and keep him happy. The game was developed with help from mtvU, MTV’s college network.

Another game, Budget Ball (, is patterned after ultimate frisbee, and requires players to pick a strategy of either going into debt to buy advantages, such as an extra player, or taking sacrifices to earn bucks that convert into points at the game’s end.

"Not all debt is bad. We just want young people to consider the consequences of it, and to develop a strategy," said Susan Tanaka, the Peterson Foundation’s director of citizen education and engagement.

The Web also is proving a crucial component of Chicago teen entrepreneur Zoe Damacela, a 17-year-old senior at Whitney Young High School, who has been recognized for her business acumen.

Damacela, who lives on the West Side, won a $5,000 second-place prize for her business plan in the 2009 OppenheimerFunds/National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. She got to meet President Obama at the White House.

She uses silks, satins, burlaps and what she calls "weird" fabrics as she sews her creations and has sold her custom-made designs from $125 for an everyday dress to $1,000 for a wedding dress. She has attracted customers through word of mouth, social networking, her Web site,, and her blog,

Damacela has hired her first two employees — part-time seventh graders — and has started selling clothes to customers in New York who’ve found her online.

"I get a lot of customers through Facebook and MySpace," she said.

She said she has learned by operating her business how to manage money.

"I lost money on the first dress I sold. The fabric cost more than what I sold it for," she said.


Getting out of the red: New class will teach financial literacy

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

The Candor, Volume XXX, Issue 6 – week of October 6, 2008

By Fadi Shihadeh, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Cash is king, unless you do not have any. A new class offered by Benedictine’s College of Business hopes to help students establish good money habits and learn to manage their finances better.

Management 391: Service Learning  – Managing Personal Spending and Savings begins on Oct. 23 and runs until Dec. 11. The class will have students keep a constant journal of their spending and discuss their experiences. For the latter half of the class, students will go out to local schools as part of a program to teach younger students some of these financial habits. The class is not restricted to business or finance majors.

“It’s open to everybody,” said Vicki Jobst, instructor for the course. The course had beginnings with the Dean of the College of Business, Sandra Gill, Ph.D., who had expressed interest in promoting financial literacy for students. The materials for the journaling are coming from Alice Wood, who is part of Wealth Watchers International, which promotes financial literacy for corporations and individuals. Jobst met Wood at the Women’s Leadership Summit last year and wanted to find a way to incorporate Wood’s program into a class. Wood believes there is a lot of potential for these programs in the student market because the e earlier students start learning these habits, the better. It is especially important that college students are informed.

“You don’t want your parents to support you for the rest of your life,” said Wood of college students. Now is the time, she stressed, for students to be picking up the important habits that help them save money. “Everybody who’s in college should be acting like they’re poor because they’re not out there making a living yet,” she said. Taking this class, students will develop the correct mentality to approach financial decisions.

“We want them to have good spending and saving habits,” said Jobst. To help students along this path, students will journal their spending habits for the first couple of weeks so that they record how much they spend on a day-to-day and monthly basis. Seeing the numbers and having a running account balance provides students with a way to assess their spending as well as understand the consequences of every purchase. The journal also has students categorize each purchase so they can see how much they can compare the costs of eating a restaurant with eating fast food. Students will also set personal budgets and try to stick to them.


Educating others on finance

In the latter half of the course, students will go out to local schools to educate students on these financial lessons. This is the service learning aspect. Gina Dewald is part of the Chicago division of Junior Achievement, which will train the management class’s student in the skills they will need to teach financial literacy.

“Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs,” said Dewald. Each age group has a tailored program so that it is age-appropriate.

A team of specialists created the curriculums, which include learning critical thinking, making better decisions and understanding all the financial lingo. Each kit has activities, plans for the grade levels.

“The volunteers facilitate the curriculum” said Dewald. “This particular program that the students at Benedictine will be facilitating explores personal finance and students’ education and career options based on their skills, interests and values,” she added.

By learning these skills, students will strengthen their financial literacy and avoid some literally costly mistakes. Wood has previously organized focus groups and knows what kind of habits often end up hurting students. She says a big problem for college kids is overdraft fees, the fees that banks charge when someone withdraws more money that there is in the account. Students may not see the correct balance because often there is a lag time in updating their account balances. Those fees add up when students do not know their balance.

A couple other tips include finding alternatives for spending money such as packing a lunch instead of eating out, which can save a lot of money. See a movie at the cheaper theaters. Pick up instead of having restaurants deliver, start saving for retirement and learn from people who are better at spending money.

Another tip is that students should not waste their brains and money on things that are bad for them such as drugs and alcohol. Wood told an anecdote of a UIC student who did not even know he had a gambling problem until he went through the program and realized where is money was going.


A consumer culture

All three, Dewald, Jobst and Wood, emphasized the importance of starting from a young age. Wood found that families might not be equipped to teach children the proper nutritional and financial knowledge for making better decisions. Jobst also commented that some freshman advisers were worried about suggesting students take the class because it is a 300 level course but say that it is appropriate to any level of student. She added that the freshman year is the best place to start because students will then have this knowledge for the rest of their college career.

American consumerism is creating problems, evidenced most recently by the mortgage meltdown and the successive bank failures.

“For the last two years, consumer spending has outpaced after-tax earnings, and Americans carry approximately $2.5 trillion in debt, excluding home mortgages. This is the financial legacy we are leaving for our children, tantamount to writing a bad check that they will have to cash,” said Dewald.

“Americans are always maxing out their cards and overspending,” added Jobst. This debt culture is not healthy for the economy and these problems are being addressed by financial literacy programs like Wood’s. In the last twenty years, she pointed out, that overall percentage savings of disposable income have decreased to almost nothing while consumer debt is ballooning.

She said that there is also a correlation between the rise in obesity and the rise of consumer debt. Wood emphasized that being financially literate did not mean that one could not purchase anything expensive.

“The philosophy behind Wealth Watchers isn’t to be judgmental. The idea is you can have anything you want as long as you plan and save for it,” she said. With an economy in turmoil, there may be no better time than now to become financially literate.

The two credit class can fit 35 students and is filling up. Anyone interested can enroll through MyBenU and has no prerequisites. The class will meet at night from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays.


McDonald’s Project a Boost for Local Entrepreneur

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Naperville Sun | August 10, 2009

By Meg Dedolph

For local entrepreneur Alice Wood, the contract with McDonald’s boosted her financial education business. For the fast-food giant, Wood’s financial literacy program met a growing demand among its employees.

To celebrate that partnership, Wood, president and founder of Naperville-based Wealth Watchers, presented the company’s 2009 Financial Literacy Advocate Award to McDonald’s Corp. for its work in promoting financial literacy among its employees.

At a short ceremony held in June, Wood said financial literacy is a critical skill for people to develop.

“Bringing financial literacy to your employees, whether minimum wage or the higher paid executives couldn’t be more important than it is right now,” she said. 

The program, launched in Dec. 2008 by McDonald’s and Visa, is available to more than a half-million restaurant-level employees at the company’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

The restaurant company worked with Wood and with Visa to develop a program that includes a customized Wealth Watchers budget journal, educational DVDs for employees to watch at their workplace and a customized employee Web site.

“The first couple months, we had over 25,000 page views (on the Web site) and we got multiple reorders for the journal,” said Kim Appleberg, the company’s senior director of U.S. human resources.

McDonald’s started looking for a financial education program it could introduce to its employees based on worker demand, Appleberg said.

“We started to see on our employee assistance line, more and more calls and inquiries coming in about financial education,” she said. “We actually started this before the economy turned bad, but as we were into it, that’s when the economy started to worsen and solidified the decision we made.”

The company hopes the financial education program will improve employee participation in other programs, such as their retirement savings plan. Appleberg said the company found that offering a benefit to employees doesn’t always mean they’ll take advantage of it.

“Even though we give a 7 percent match on our 401k for our crew, many of our employees choose not to participate in it because they don’t understand the value of it,” she said. “When we look at our 401k plan or our health care plan, we think we can continue to improve the participation rate in both plans by improving peoples’ understanding of financial education.”

By working with a large company such as McDonald’s, Wood said Wealth Watchers received the credibility it needed to approach the U.S. government about using the Wealth Watchers program with its employees.

“It’s just remarkable that all of that hard work ended up launching America’s biggest financial literacy program,” Wood said.

Wood, a lawyer, founded Wealth Watchers while recovering from a brain injury that hampered her own money-management skills. The program uses a journal to track daily spending and help users set savings goals.