Print this Faces of NEFE – Katherine Sauer, Ph.D.

Senior Director of Education, Research and Strategic Impact

Katherine SauerLast issue, we introduced Katherine (Katie) Sauer, who replaced Billy Hensley, Ph.D., when he took over as NEFE’s president and CEO. Now we get to know Katie a bit better to find out how her path led her to financial capability in general and to NEFE specifically.

Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in North Dakota, but I don’t have the accent anymore. My parents and extended family predominantly live in Minnesota now, so I get back to the Midwest a couple times a year to refresh my pronunciations of “boat” and “you betcha.”

What are your interests outside of work?

Katie doing yoga in BaliI love yoga and have been a certified instructor since 2012. I teach yoga for athletic performance and recovery every Saturday at a local martial arts studio. At a previous job, I used to teach office yoga and meditation in the conference room.

Maybe I’ll bring that to NEFE now that I’m settling into my new role here. I’m also a certified nutritionist and enjoy cooking whole food plant-based (WFPB) recipes. I enjoy painting (artistic, not walls); acrylic on canvas is my preferred medium and I often base my pieces on graphs from economic theory.

What interests you about personal finance?

It sounds strange, but I’ve been an economist since I was a small child. I’ve always thought about the world in terms of trade-offs, incentives, choices, costs/benefits, and (un)intended consequences. It’s just how I see things. To me, personal finance is a very practical, applied version of the economic way of thinking. Personal finance can breathe life into basic economic theories. For example, economists may theorize about how people go about maximizing their utility from purchasing goods and services. Personal finance includes the everyday, real-world choices people make about spending.

What’s something you wish the average American knew about personal finance?

I wish people paid more attention to estate planning and knew that it is about way more than a will. Younger, single adults often think it doesn’t apply to them. In reality, all adults need to think about who will make decisions (health and financial) if they become temporarily incapacitated. Thinking through all “what if” or inevitable “when I die” has another benefit that I recently learned about.

Katie's paintingRecently one of my credit card numbers was used fraudulently so I had to close that card. Because I created a list of financial accounts as one of my estate planning reference documents, and it included which subscription services and bills were automatically charged to that card each month, it only took me about 30 minutes to log into each account and input a new credit card number. Without my reference list, it would have been a much larger hassle to try and remember each account that was linked to my credit card — especially the items that only charge periodically (e.g., the tollway I sometimes take or my computer backup service).

What’s your philosophy on how financial education should be delivered?

Aside from NEFE’s Five Factors for Effective Financial Education, I believe effective financial education shouldn’t take a stance on whether a particular financial decision is right or wrong, good or bad. Taking on debt isn’t inherently good or bad — it depends on the situation. Shopping around for a lower price on something isn’t costless — it takes time. Tithing may be a priority for someone even if it means they can’t pay all of their bills in a month. Financial education should aim to lay out potential short- and long-term consequences (positive, neutral and negative) of decisions and provide strategies for individuals to use in decision making. If we really want to help people learn more about their finances, then we need to meet them where they are. And that means not judging and not being so rigidly prescriptive about what it means to be “responsible” with one’s finances, when delivering financial education.