UCCE advisor Patti Wooten Swanson, who championed 'San Diego Saves,' retires

Oct 2, 2019

Helping people attain financial security and healthy, active lives has been a career passion for Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for San Diego County. Wooten Swanson, who joined UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2001, retired July 1, 2019, from a career of research and outreach focused on family financial management and nutrition education to help San Diego County residents improve their lives.

Melinda Opperman has worked with Wooten Swanson on several campaigns promoting financial wellness that received proclamations from the San Diego City Council, mayor and board of supervisors.

“She was instrumental in improving people's financial lives and promoting the common purpose of financial wellness. Her work was critical,” said Opperman, executive vice president of Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management in National City.

In 2005, Wooten Swanson launched the annual San Diego Saves, part of the America Saves campaign, to encourage San Diegans to improve their financial security.

“The basic message is to encourage people to build wealth through systematic savings over an extended time, with an emphasis on saving and paying down debt,” Wooten Swanson said at the time. She persuaded consumer advocates, credit unions, banks and other local businesses to offer savers' clubs and money-management workshops. As part of San Diego Saves, several financial institutions offered savings accounts that could be opened with as little as $5 and no fees for 12 months.

In her research, the Cooperative Extension advisor found that people were more successful at building their savings if they wrote down a goal, such as buying a car. Wooten Swanson also encouraged saving through payroll or checking account deductions, saying, “You won't miss what you can't see.”

In her blog Small Steps To Health And Wealth, Wooten Swanson provided practical tips for consumers to eat healthfully, avoid foodborne illness and save money.

She also authored UC ANR's Financial Caregiving Series for adult children of aging parents. Recently Wooten Swanson co-chaired the Money Talks workgroup that developed “Living on Your Own” guidebooks, currently in production. The guidebooks outline living expenses low-income youth and young adults should consider before moving to their own apartments. As UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus, she plans to promote the Living on My Own program at professional society meetings. 

An active community member, Wooten Swanson served on the San Diego County Food System Initiative leadership team and as a research partner with a volunteer gleaning program that provides fresh produce to food insecure families. She also trained social workers to give their clients just-in-time money management information.

Her contributions to the field of family and consumer sciences were recognized with the 2018 Leader Award from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences' California affiliate. The National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences honored Wooten Swanson with its 2018 Excellence in MultiState Collaboration Award (Eastern Region) for her contributions to a NIFA Extension Project, and its 2017 Continued Excellence Award for her leadership and promotion of the professional development of others.

Wooten Swanson earned her Ph.D. in consumer science at Texas Woman's University, an M.Ed. in vocational education at North Texas State University and B.S. in home economics at Texas Christian University.

After a busy 44-year career in education, Wooten Swanson is enjoying spending more time with her husband, Jerry, at their home in San Diego and traveling. Once Quicken, her English springer spaniel, gets certified as a pet therapy dog, she plans to volunteer to cheer patients at Scripps Mercy Hospital. 


By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach