New money management lessons for adults with disabilities

Adults with cognitive disabilities also face economic challenges, but they can learn basic money management concepts to achieve their goals.

Four individuals sitting at a work table discussing something.
Photo courtesy of Cade Martin, Dawn Arlotta, USCDCP via

According to a National Disability Institute report “Banking Status and Financial Behaviors of Adults with Disabilities” by Nanette Goodman and Michael Morris, people with disabilities include 19% of the U.S. population. The report conveys that many face economic challenges related to banking status, access, sustainability, growth and financial well-being, including affording basic necessities. Nearly half have no credit, and two-thirds do not save for unexpected expenses. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. This includes equal opportunity to build the knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions.

Based on focus groups, interviews with mental illness service providers, and pilot testing, “Get Ready, Get Set, Get Going: A Guide to Money Management” was developed by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension for adults with a cognitive or developmental disability. Concepts in 12 lessons are explained using visual prompts and hands-on practice to build skills plus motivation for participants to adopt the behaviors learned by making their personal financial wellness goals.

This financial literacy education program is intended for staff and volunteers of community service organizations who work with this audience. The curriculum intends to build participant confidence and a sense of control when dealing with money management tools and action-oriented strategies. Some topics covered include making good money decisions, organizing and keeping records, saving, making and managing a spending plan, protecting your money, paying bills, understanding credit, and controlling debt.

The lessons are arranged into individual sections available for free download along with the accompanying facilitator guide at Each of the 12 lesson plans includes a session overview, resources to prepare to maximize your workshop facilitation, a list of the materials you will need, and detailed presenter notes to guide you. The lessons contain a wealth of handouts for participants to take part in hands-on learning as well as appendixes to supplement the facilitator’s teaching. The lesson structure is consistent and predictable for learners with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

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