Ashley LeBaron is a family finance researcher at the University of Arizona. As a researcher, she runs statistical tests and writes papers focusing on how money influences couple relationships and how parents teach their kids about money. She and her colleagues were recently published in the latest issue of the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning (JCFP), for their work on “Teaching Children About Money: Prospective Parenting Ideas From Undergraduate Students”. Learn how Ashley is bridging the gap by utilizing feedback from undergraduate students to inform her research.
AFCPE: What inspired you to enter this field?
Ashley: I have always been a researcher at heart. From the time I was five, I was polling my family members on their opinions (e.g., rank ordering candy bars) and doing simple calculations with that “data”. One of my incredible mentors, Jeff Hill, helped me discover my passion for family finance and gave me my first experiences with real research. He let me lead his research team when I was an undergraduate sophomore with no research experience. I’m sure I was the cause of many headaches and gray hairs at first, but he was patient and nurturing, and his confidence in me helped me gain the confidence I needed to make it my career.
AFCPE: Tell us about your recent paper published in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning: “Teaching Children About Money: Prospective Parenting Ideas From Undergraduate Students”.
Ashley: The fundamental purpose of the paper is to help improve financial education (particularly from parents) and thereby increase the financial well-being of future emerging adults. The paper is part of a larger project, the “Whats and Hows of Family Financial $ocialization” project. We interviewed 126 undergraduate students, 17 parents, and 8 grandparents about what and how their parents taught them about money (and, for parents and grandparents, what and how they taught their kids about money). As we began coding the data, we noticed that many of the students (76% of them) had, without being prompted, talked about what/how they wanted to teach their own future kids about money. We thought this demonstrated remarkable prospective thinking about financial parenting, and the students had some really excellent ideas that financial educators, researchers, parents, clinicians, etc. could learn from. So, we coded for various themes and wrote a paper to highlight these wonderful ideas! The themes we found include (a) “Communicating Family Finances,” (b) “Opportunities for Responsibility,” (c) “The Value of Hard Work,” and (d) “The Process of Saving.” It was really important to us to let the participants speak for themselves, so we tried to include as many direct quotes as possible in the Findings section.
AFCPE: This project sounds amazing! As a researcher, how important is it to bridge the gap between research and practice?
Ashley: This is so important! It’s something I need to work on, and as a field, we could be doing better. I think organizations such as AFCPE are a great way to bridge the gap, as practitioners and researchers alike read JFCP, and as researchers present their findings and practitioners present their experiences and questions at the annual conference. Ideally, researchers’ studies should stem from the experiences and questions of practitioners, and then researchers’ findings should inform practitioners. As we talk to and listen to each other, the research and the practice are both improved.
AFCPE: What’s next for you? What has you most excited?
Ashley: The next major project for me will be taking the qualitative findings from the Whats and Hows of Family Financial $ocialization project and translating them into quantitative measures. I hope to create new, more nuanced items that can be used in financial socialization research. After creating the items, I hope to collect data and explore how various financial socialization topics, methods, processes, and meanings are associated with various outcomes.
Ashley Answers the Friday 5:
- My Why: The two most precious things to me are my family and my faith. They give purpose and meaning to everything I do. I have found that as I put them first, everything else works out.
- My Favorite Quote: My favorite quote is by Thomas S. Monson: “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
- My Hero: One of my heroes is Jeff Hill, the mentor I talked about before. Aside from being one of my best friends, he is the most selfless, giving person I know. He is always looking out for others and what he can do to help them. Life has dealt him his fair share of hardships, but he greets them all with a smile. My ongoing goal is to become more of the mentor, friend, and person that he is.
- My Favorite Personal Finance Resource: Parents! I study financial socialization, so I’m a little biased, but I believe that parents are (and should be) the #1 source of pre-adulthood financial learning.
- My Best Advice:
- For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: Decide on your values and priorities, and then act accordingly. Make sure your budget, your saving, your spending, your giving, etc. are in line with what you actually care about. If not, you might have regrets later.
- For a new professional entering the field: To those starting out in research, the best advice I could give is to find yourself the best mentor you can and learn from them. In my opinion, the best mentors are those who 1) give you responsibility and let you lead out on projects and papers, and 2) give you ample encouragement and support. My choice of masters’ program and doctoral program were both made almost entirely based on who my advisor would be. Both times, my advisor (MS: Jeff Hill; PhD: Melissa Curran) has been exceptional and has made all the difference in my experience and success.
Download the research (available to AFCPE members or by the request from the authors): LeBaron et al. (2018) Teaching Children About Money: Prospective Parenting Ideas From Undergraduate Students (JFCP), 29(2).
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Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=dTPJXPQAAAAJ&hl=en