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Treasurer Brings ‘Smart Women Smart Money’ Conference to State

3 min read

State Treasurer Dennis Milligan and the State Financial Officers Foundation, of which he is a member, are bringing a national women’s financial education conference to Arkansas next month.

Arkansas is the first state to host the “Smart Women Smart Money” conference outside of Idaho, where it was founded in 1999 by then Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane.

The free conference will be held at the Arkansas Arts Academy in Rogers from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 3. It will cover topics including budgeting, investing, estate and will planning, identity theft, debt, starting a business and financial issues after the death of a loved one. Former WNBA player Tamika Catchings will deliver the keynote address.

About 60 people have already registered for the conference, Stacy Peterson, communications director for Milligan’s office, told Arkansas Business. Milligan said he expects attendance to reach 500.

About the need for financial education in the state, Milligan said, “We’re not going to attract businesses to Arkansas if we don’t have educated people, and certainly financially educated people.

“It’s never too early or too late to learn about finances. I learn something new all the time. It’s helping to make your money work for you, no matter how much money you make. I want to improve all of our conditions.”

Milligan said it’s important for the state to host the conference because 26 percent of Arkansans are unbanked or underbanked, and many of those are women.

Milligan added that:

  • Women, in general, are three times more likely to say they can’t afford to save for retirement;
  • More women than men lack financial literacy;
  • The majority of caregivers are women; and
  • Women are three times more likely to quit their job to care for a family member.

“We have some vicious [socio-economic] cycles that have got to change,” Milligan said. “They have got to change. And I know it’s such an easy thing to say when we say education is the key, but you really have to delve in there to get those cycles broke.”

Milligan noted that, while women generally earn less and save less, they live longer.

“When you take that and the fact that they do have the same expenses as men, they face additional costs long term … Their backs are against the wall before the cards are dealt in many cases,” he said. “This, ultimately, was a way we thought we could give back to women who often care for all of us before you care for yourselves.”

Milligan said the conference is being held in northwest Arkansas because it’s a “hotspot” of economic growth in the state. His office also wants to reach the Hispanic and Marshallese communities there.

Milligan said his office is seeking banks and credit unions to sponsor the event. Current sponsors are northwest Arkansas NBC affiliate KNWA and the Arkansas 529 GIFT Plan, a college tuition savings program sponsored by the state and administered by the Arkansas Section 529 Plan Review Committee.

Milligan declined to disclose a budget for the conference, saying that it’s too early to give an accurate figure given that the search for sponsors continues.

He also said, if the conference goes well, it could return to the state on an annual basis. “Not only do I expect this to be a success, but I expect it, as it grows, to be bigger and bigger and bigger. I think Arkansas as a whole will benefit from this,” Milligan said.

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