Last week I had a meeting with Sarah Bahl and Courtney Piper (Founder/President and Director of Finances, respectively). They explained that A Woman's Bridge, in partnership with ARCH, will be starting a financial literacy program next month. This got me thinking about our approach to financial education in this country, and about my own financial training.
I only remember two things from grade school: a budget is important, as is how to write a check. My parents were the ones who taught me about banks, and I've had a savings account since I was about 8 years old. But other than these things, I have very little background in terms of financial literacy.
I have met people in the past who knew even less than I do. These people, both young and old, were unsure of how banks worked or how to use an ATM card. These things are basic; I would gather that many do not come close to understanding more complicated matters, such as responsible investing. And that is probably what got all of us, as Americans, in the financial crisis that we're in right now. But that is another matter and a whole other debate.
Curious, I decided to look up statistics to see if my friends and I are alone in our financial ignorance. According to the Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University , we're not. According to NFI, "only a quarter of Americans feel well informed about managing household finances" and about 25 to 56 million Americans do not have a bank account. What's even scarier is that in 2003, 25% of those surveyed said that they did not have anything saved for retirement.
As far as education goes, most teenagers (71%) get their information from their parents, but "based on a national survey of high school seniors, America's teenagers as a group in 2004 score a failing grade in basic financial literacy knowledge". I am actually a member of that group, and this, unfortunately, does not surprise me.
Maybe it's that finances and economics can be intimidating, or that people don't like to think about money and would rather just spend it. I don't know. What I do know is that it is important that people have access to programs (whether it's school children or retirees) that can at least explain the basics. That's what A Woman's Bridge is trying to do.
For more information, keep an eye on awomansbridge.org. You can also visit mymoney.govfor information and resources.