Choice and accountability are two of the hallmark components of economic freedom. Financial knowledge is an essential factor in enabling U.S. citizens to better position themselves to benefit from the abundant economic opportunities. To further prepare citizens to make educated financial decisions, April has been proclaimed Financial Literacy Month.
April was officially recognized as Financial Literacy Month in March 2004, when the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Resolution 316. Following the lead of the Senate in March 2011, President Barack Obama issued a presidential proclamation supporting the 2004 Senate resolution. In that 2011 proclamation, the president said, “… our nation’s prosperity will ultimately depend on our willingness as individuals to empower ourselves and our families with financial knowledge.”
Making informed financial decisions is what financial literacy enables. Longer-term, personal financial stability begins with financial literacy. As individuals and families develop financial knowledge and establish and practice sound financial habits, they will be better prepared to make informed consumer decisions, understand how to protect their savings and be better prepared for life’s unplanned economic occurrences.
Increasing knowledge of financial literacy not only enhances the likelihood of avoiding financially detrimental transactions but enables productive and responsible management of accumulated assets. On the list of basic topics necessary to developing financial literacy are responsible use of debt, prudent homeownership, managing credit profiles, appropriate financial contingency planning, systematic savings objectives and overall organization of financial resources and assets.
Under the direction of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the comptroller of the currency has highlighted the need to begin financial literacy education in elementary school. Suggested activities include field trips to banks and other financial institutions, stock market simulation games, savings clubs and other educational programs.
Many free resources are available online for those wishing to increase their financial literacy aptitude. Step-by-step instructional programs enable individuals to assess their current level of financial knowledge and establish a plan to enhance knowledge on desired financial topics. These online tools are sponsored by various government entities, not-for-profit organizations and other fee-seeking companies.
Complexity in the financial services arena continues to increase. To facilitate wise financial decisions, appropriate knowledge is critical. As individuals and families take actions to better prepare themselves to make more informed financial decisions, the likelihood of achieving financial stability and economic security will be significantly improved.
Kirby Brown is the CEO of Beneficial Financial Group in Salt Lake City.