Free in WNY / Learning personal finance with the Establishment

Photos by kc kratt


What percentage of your income should you save for retirement? What percentage of your income should go toward a mortgage? And, how much life insurance coverage do you need?


These are all critical questions to consider in financial planning, but many of us may not know the answers. Nationally, studies find teenagers and adults consistently score poorly on financial literacy tests, a knowledge gap Ryan McNulty noticed firsthand working with his clients.


“In my experience, rather than seeking professional advice, consumers sometimes start Googling,” says McNulty, an investment advisor representative for MassMutual. “This may lead them to believe—because the internet told them, so it must be true—that they only need $500,000 of life insurance, for example.”


In addition to working with his own clients, McNulty is an instructor for the Establishment, which offers a series of free classes on personal finance topics like student loans, buying your first home, retirement planning, money management, and insurance. (The Establishment is a brand name of MML Investors Services, which is owned by MassMutual.)



A recent “Wine and Investing 101” class included vino and appetizers for attendees, as McNulty broke down the difference between 401(k) accounts and IRAs, and Dan Palumbo Jr. taught participants how to be more discerning with their wine selection. Afterward, those who wanted to engage one-on-one with a financial advisor could schedule a free thirty-minute “financial checkup,” but there was no pressure either to do so or to purchase another service.


“The overall mission of the program is to promote financial literacy and empower those who come through our classes to make more informed financial decisions,” McNulty says. “We provide hypothetical examples and always speak to the audience in terms they can understand and relate to. We have actually created a few of our classes based on feedback from people who have come through a class with us.”


McNulty says many people take multiple classes, starting with an overview class like “Wine and Investing,” “Couples and Money,” or “Creating a Budget,” before diving into more specific areas, like taxes, insurance, or credit scores.


“My hope when a class ends is that the audience leaves with a few ideas or concepts that they can take action on,” he says. “All of this information is only truly valuable if you apply what you learned.”


For more information and a class schedule, visit


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