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Financial Literacy — HOW DO YOU SCORE? by Beth Jones, RLP®

April has been declared National Financial Literacy Month. Too many Americans are insufficiently educated about their personal finances. Today, a majority of consumers are experiencing some sort of financial difficulty causing a significant impact on their everyday lives. In fact, Americans carry more than $2 trillion in consumer debt and 30 percent of consumers report having no extra cash; making it impossible to escape the burden of living paycheck to paycheck.

The recent economic crisis and the increasing complexity of our financial system make it clear that strengthening the financial knowledge and skills of our young people is critical to their future success and to the future financial stability of our country. To better navigate their financial futures and be prepared to make smart choices, students need to learn more about earning and spending, saving and investing, using credit wisely, avoiding fraud, paying for college, and more.

FINANCIAL LITERACY refers to the basic skills people need to manage money and make financial decisions. People are said to be financially literate when they understand money, income and taxes, budgeting, banking, saving, investing, credit, insurance, retirement planning, and managing money for economic self-sufficiency and to build wealth.

Financial Literacy needs to begin early in life and is a life-long pursuit. Basic financial literacy is essential and empowering; it increases social and economic equality. It allows people to take control of their financial lives. Through financial education, we can create informed and responsible citizens who can make wise financial decisions.


  1. Teens surveyed by Teenage Research Unlimited in 2001, reported spending 98% of their money, rather than saving it, and
  2. More than 1 in 5 youths ages 12 to 19 have their own credit cards or have access to parents' credit cards, and 14% have debit cards.
  3. A Consumer Reports survey of 12-year-olds found that 28% did not know that credit cards are a form of borrowing, 40% did not know that banks charge interest on loans, and 34% did not know that you cannot tell how good a product is by how much it is advertised.
  4. Youth and Money Survey, American Savings Education Council, 2001 reports 30% of youth say that their parents rarely or never discuss saving and investing with them;
  5. 47% say their parents rarely or never discuss household budgeting with them, and
  6. 40% of students are likely to buy a pair of jeans (or something similar) they really want even if they do not have the money to pay for it. 22% would pay for it with a credit card.
  7. Of the 4,000 students who took the Jump$tart Coalition personal finance survey in 2002, 68.1% received failing scores. Only 15% of students surveyed said that they had taken a portion of a course (at least a week) in money management or personal finance.
  8. Half of the adults and high school seniors surveyed for National Council on Economic Education by the Harris organization knew so little about making good spending, saving and investing choices that they were a danger to their own future financial security.


The New York Financial Literacy Coalition was formed in 2000 to promote financial literacy among young adults. An initiative of w!se (Working In Support of Education), the Coalition promotes programs, conferences, curricula, and teacher training. It is also the New York affiliate of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy - a clearinghouse and advocacy network promoting financial literacy among youth. The New York Financial Literacy Coalition is an educational 501(c)3 not-for-profit with a mission to provide educational support services nationwide, build financial literacy, foster business and social entrepreneurship, and prepare students for college and the workplace. w!se serves 15,000 students and educators each year. Visit them at to learn about bringing a program to your school.

National Council on Economic Education, a nonprofit group based in New York offers comprehensive, economic and personal finance education programs, including the basics of entrepreneurship, consisting of teaching resources across the curriculum, professional development for teachers, and assessment instruments. Each year, the Council's programs reach more than 150,000 K-12 teachers and over 15 million students in the United States and in more than 30 other countries. These programs are delivered through a diversified system: directly from the Council, through a network of affiliated state Councils and university-based Centers for Economic Education, and through other partner organizations. offers free financial information and tools to empower 25-34 year olds to take charge of their personal finances and live within their means.

Take the Challenge! The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Education have teamed up to launch the National Financial Capability Challenge for 2010. The Challenge is an initiative designed to engage educators in the teaching of personal finance, and to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school aged youth across the United States so they can take control over their financial futures. All high school teachers are encouraged to help reach the goal of 1 million high school students taking the Challenge this year.

Money Management International offers a 30 step path to help you achieve financial wellness. Having a clear and accurate picture of where you are right now, and where you want to be will help create a plan to get you on the road to becoming financially self-sufficient!

Ulster Savings Bank is proud of their financial literacy programs designed specifically for students, participating in the national “Teach Children to Save” initiative through the American Bankers Association. In 2009, they reached over 3,500 students throughout their rural branch communities by offering in-school banking. Ulster Savings also offers a good grade reward program, where student investors can receive a $2.00 deposit into their student investor account, each grading period, for a good report card (defined as a B or better).

Beth Jones, RLP® is a Registered Life Planner and Financial Consultant with Third Eye Associates, Ltd, a Registered Investment Adviser located at 38 Spring Lake Road in Red Hook, NY. She can be reached at 845-752-2216 or Securities offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC.

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