APRIL: FINANCIAL LITERACY MONTH
By Senator Mike Crapo
Since taxes come due in April, it tends to be a time that people think more often about their personal finances-savings, investments, income and expenditures. The annual focus on our finances is exacerbated this year by high fuel prices, concerns in the housing market and some resulting upward pressure on the prices of goods. Unfortunately, personal savings rates in the United States are at historic lows, declining and in the negative now for over three years. In April 2007, a personal finance survey reported that 25 percent of U.S. workers had no savings. Less than 50 percent of U.S. workers in the 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey had calculated how much they needed to save for retirement. Overall consumer debt registered $2.5 trillion, a 33 percent increase from 2001. This pales in comparison to household debt (which includes mortgage debt) which reached approximately $13 trillion in 2007.
Congress has declared April 2008 "Financial Literacy Month." As we examine our personal finances and contemplate ways to balance our incomes and expenditures, we should take advantage of resources available to help. One in four American adults has never checked his or her credit score, and nearly half of American adults do not know that credit reports can be accessed for free. You can link to this information from my website. Nearly 10 million U.S. households do not have an account at a mainstream financial institution such as a bank or a credit union. Establishing such an account gives consumers access to less expensive and more secure options for managing finances and building wealth. Recent surveys indicate that high school seniors score failing grades on tests determining knowledge of personal finance. Fortunately, Idaho is ahead of the game-it is one of a minority of states in which the public schools require a form of financial literacy for high school graduation.
Personal financial education helps prepare individuals to manage money, credit and debt. Responsible financial management is the key to becoming an effective investor, entrepreneur, business leader and citizen. It's also the key to consumer protection. When our personal financial house is in order, it gives us the freedom to enjoy our lives, our families and plan well for the future. If necessary, seek out financial counseling resources available through your financial institution or through community, state or federal resources. The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition will be holding its second annual "Your Money Matters" information session on April 18 at the Nampa Civic Center. The conference is free, and information will be presented on a variety of topics including investment, Social Security, savings, credit, home buying, debt elimination and retirement planning. The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition (IFLC) includes close to two dozen Idaho financial institutions, state agencies, consumer protection agencies, educational institutions, financial planners and accountants. You can link to IFLC from my website.
For those whose financial houses are in order, you can be confident in your ability to weather the economic squalls we are experiencing today. For those with concerns, there is help available to put you back on the road to financial independence and security. In my weekly news conference on April 1, I discussed, in greater detail, the effects of the subprime mortgage crisis and the appropriate role of the federal government in this issue as well as the appropriate role of the federal government in the our energy challenges. You can access this interview at my website, under "Media" and then "Multimedia." For more information on the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition and financial literacy in general, please visit: http://crapo.senate.gov .
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