April has always been about showers bringing May flowers and the rush to file federal income taxes.
More recently, April has been saddled with the gravitas of being “financial literacy month.”
President Obama proclaimed it so last Friday. Gov. Rendell dubbed it “Financial Education Month” in Pennsylvania.
I happen to believe you can never learn too much about managing your money, living within your means, and planning for retirement.
Survey after survey (often sponsored by the financial-services sector) points out how unprepared many of us are. A survey of 1,488 Americans by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation released in December found only 49 percent of respondents had set aside money to cover expenses for three months.
FINRA’s survey identified 12 percent of Americans as “unbanked,” meaning they have no checking or savings account. The biggest reason cited was not having enough money to make it worthwhile.
But “financial literacy” means different things to different people. While one person may have no checking account, another may be contemplating speculative foreign-currency trading. So no single personal-finance book will answer everybody’s questions, especially when some of us don’t even know what we don’t know.
I saw a few heads nodding in agreement at a Global Interdependence Center conference in March when John D. Rogers, CEO of the CFA Institute, was asked about the need to promote financial literacy.
“Before you get to financial literacy, you have to get to literacy,” he said.
Good point, especially in a city where too many students drop out of the public-school system and many others can’t read and lack critical math skills.
Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get our own financial houses in order now to prepare for whatever the future will throw at us.
And while the Federal Reserve has been criticized for shirking its consumer protection duties, the central bank does offer some good, free educational materials on personal finance at the Federal Reserve Education Web site. It provides links to other sites, too.
Spend a few hours reading about interest rates or the new federal credit-card rules, and financial literacy month will just fly by.