It’s Financial Literacy Month. So…What’s That?

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Finally! It’s Financial Literacy Month again. After a year-long wait it’s time to, uh, get all financially literate and whatnot.

Right…well, before we break out the streamers and cake let’s back up a little and find out just what it is we’re recognizing.

So what is financial literacy month? Who started it? And why?

Those are the questions I asked myself when I heard April was officially deemed Financial Literacy Month in America. And they seem like a pretty good starting point for this very blog post.

So I did what any other person in my generation does when I have a question that needs answered – I Googled it.

What Is Financial Literacy Month?
Financial literacy Month was started in 2000 by Jump$start Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.  Jump$tart began by promoting April as Financial Literacy for Youth Month. Building on that foundation, the United States Senate designated April as Financial Literacy Month in America in 2003 to highlight the importance of financial literacy and teaching Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits.

And Why Does It Matter?
Full disclosure: I’m in my late twenties. And, as you may know, that qualifies me as a Gen Y’er. So, when I think about financial literacy, I think back to all my years of schooling. Without finance courses in high school and college, I probably wouldn’t have been taught much more than how to write a check.

As someone in Gen Y, which is growing in terms of workforce participation every day, I’m a bit upset that we even need to promote a month as “Financial Literacy Month.”

Why are we not teaching these financial literacy programs earlier? Why are we not re-enforcing healthy money management practices starting in junior high? Or even something really simple in elementary school?

I know from personal experience in my line of work (as a consumer relationship manager for a credit union) that there are a lot of people that – through no fault of their own – struggle with basic financial concepts. That first-hand experience leads me to believe that more people in America could benefit from a financial literacy course than would ever admit it.

And with the credit crisis getting worse – over a third of workers say they have less than $1,000 in savings and investment for retirement – financial literacy is increasingly an economic issue that will have far-reaching consequences for all of us.

That leads to my dilemma. On one hand, I’m glad there’s a month dedicated to financial literacy in America. So many people (myself included) could definitely benefit from getting more financial hints and tips.
However, the fact that we have to dedicate this month to financial literacy because of a lack of educational programs in our school systems is concerning to me.

But this is a celebration, right? So, if nothing else, let’s salute Financial Literacy Month for providing outreach and education aimed at helping Americans better understand financial topics and manage their money – something that benefits us all.

What kind of financial education did you receive in school? How did it help shape your money management habits?  Join the conversation by adding a comment below.

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