Many recent developments in personal financial management involve technology. The U.S. Treasury is only issuing new Savings Bonds electronically; people receiving federal benefits must now accept their money electronically, instead of by check; and many consumers are opting to handle their basic financial needs online. Ask most teenagers and young adults what a check register is, and they’ll give you a blank stare.
While the ways finances are handled have advanced from years gone by, core financial education concepts still hold true. A lack of financial literacy is one barrier that can lower standards of living and limit prosperity.
Financial literacy is the ability to understand money and how to manage it so you can make informed financial decisions. It leads to financial stability and helps consumers recognize the importance of saving money, planning for unexpected expenses, and establishing short- and long-term savings goals.
“Once we have a thorough understanding of consumer finance we are able to make decisions about savings, investments, insurance, spending, and borrowing in an informed manner,” says Tracy McFarlane, Financial Counseling Supervisor at The Village Family Service Center’s Financial Resource Center. McFarlane acknowledges the complexity of today’s financial world. “With all of the options that consumers have in today’s market, the biggest challenge is knowing who you can trust with your hard-earned cash,” she says.
Basic Online Financial Literacy Resources
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy helps people understand their personal finances through every stage of life. www.360financialliteracy.org
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. offers a Financial Planning Resource Kit to help people learn about financial planning. www.cfp.net/Upload/Publications/187.pdf
Choose to Save is sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the American Savings Education Council. This public education campaign encourages saving through all stages of life. www.choosetosave.org
Kids.gov provides an extensive money section with topics that cover saving, spending, and earning money. www.kids.usa.gov
Money Management International’s Financial Wellness in 30 Steps is a website that outlines a path to financial wellness. The program gives consumers the information needed to create successful strategies for improving their financial well-being. www.financialliteracymonth.com
The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) has launched a National Financial Literacy Campaign that encourages Americans to start achieving their financial goals today by accessing practical information on the Smart About Money Website. www.smartaboutmoney.org
The Bookstore on The Village’s Financial Resource Center website features books personally recommended by financial counselors at The Village. Find the Bookstore link at the very bottom of the web page. www.HelpWithMoney.org
Knowing the language of the financial world is key to being an educated consumer. We teach children how to walk, talk, and behave in public, but studies show we do a less than adequate job teaching them about financial matters.
A wealth of information, in whatever media format you prefer, is available to help you and your family increase your financial literacy. The Village has brochures, workbooks, counselors, and classes—go to www.HelpWithMoney.org for more information. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) offers a wide selection of videos and information on financial literacy online at www.pbs.org/your-life-your-money/.
Your local library shelves are bursting with books on every aspect of financial literacy. You can find many online resources useful for all ages (see sidebar on the following page to learn more). And, if you’re never without your smartphone, you can download a number of financial apps that will track your spending, manage your bank account, even help you prepare your taxes.
Finally, have some fun while you learn. Visa’s Financial Football 2.0, an NFL-themed educational video game, uses the NFL’s structure and rules to teach money skills and improve financial literacy. Children and adults answer questions of varying difficulty about money management. The updated game is available in English and Spanish and can be played online or ordered at no cost. Visit www.practicalmoneyskills.com/games/trainingcamp/ff/. Or, test your financial literacy with The Village Family Magazine word match below. Make improving your financial literacy a resolution for 2013.
Kelly Lynch is the editor-in-chief of The Village Family Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Fargo.
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