Financial Fundamentals in Action: April is Financial Literacy Month

By Alanna McCargo

Every month you can find something to take note of. A cause or issue that has taken dominant focus and claim to ensure it is not forgotten. In some ways the idea of an entire month devoted to a cause has lost its impact, but if you are someone who is driven by causes and enjoys rallying behind what you believe in, these ‘flavors of the month’ provide good reason to get out, be heard and ACT out your passion.

April has arrived, and the celebrated topic of the month is Financial Literacy. April is a terrific month, not only because of the Spring smells and warmer air, flowers growing and blooming and Summer around the corner, but because it is the month where we bring a voice and focus to financial fundamentals and the Financial Literacy cause. Financial literacy is a topic that is near and dear to me, and a cause that I spend a lot of time working and volunteering for. Whatever small part I can play to help educate children and adults about financial fundamentals and how to apply them to everyday life, is a small step to overall betterment for people — individual, family and community.

There are many different views on how Financial Literacy is defined, who its for and how effective (or not) it is. Thousands of organizations focus on this cause everyday, and provide outreach services to communities all over the country. I take a very broad view in defining the issue, because it is big and complex and cannot be put in a simple box. Knowledge about money matters is as basic a requirement and necessity as knowing how to read and write are. If you want to get ahead in anything, you need to KNOW something and you need to DO something.  Your education should include the fundamentals of finance, money management, saving and investing. Knowledge of how the American finance system works, who the players are and how you should be participating and behaving is key. Money knowledge should be as simple as A-B-C and 1-2-3 and should begin getting taught in pre-school, fully integrated into the American curriculum (reading, vocabulary, math and history). There should be testing for comprehension, and perhaps even certification before individuals are allowed to take on their first debt or create their first credit report entry. Truly knowing how money works and comprehending decisions made around money is what everyone needs as a foundation. The bad news here is, many families lack the know-how, so its hard to teach when the foundation isn’t there. Money is more emotional than it should be, and it can better or shatter lives. These are simple facts, and how we think about it, what we know about it and how we behave when it comes to money is all about knowledge. Being literate and having basic knowledge of consequences of decisions made about money.  There are a number of ways to approach the issue of Financial Literacy, but no silver bullet or cure for what is deep rooted illiteracy about finances. The bottom line is that it’s never too late to get smart about your money, and start building toward stability in your financial situation.

The conversation about Financial Literacy has been taking place for decades. The gaps in understanding of basic finance are found in greatest numbers within poor and minority communities. Like many other things, the wider gap here keeps these groups from making it to higher levels of financial independence. The problem with the entire issue, and perhaps the reason there is a ‘month’ dedicated to it is the fact that it continues to lack progress and focus-yet the policies, practices, funding and focus are fragmented and decentralized. There is inequality in the issue. And wherever there is in equality, there is a month to bring visibility to it. Explains why February was Black History Month, March was Women’s History Month, and so on. There have been baby steps taken over the years around the issues of financial literacy in this country, yet no real substantive change to put money solidly in a top position in our schools, to re-educate teachers with skills to teach money matters, or train and re-tool parents on basics they can integrate at home to help their children appreciate and understand how money works.

As the month of April enters and throughout, the discussion will heat up on this topic. We will hear from people on differing sides of the issue, and who believe in different ways of getting to progress. The good news is, no matter what side of the issue you are on, it will be getting discussion and a platform. That matters. Hopefully more people will begin to follow the cause and get involved in the movement to make Financial Literacy a more permanent conversation and part of our education system and lives. Allowing everyone the opportunity to understand the fundamentals better so they can get to a place of financial comfort and peace.

Join the cause today by promoting and practicing:

  • Good saving habits
  • Money planning (reserves, emergency funds, retirement)
  • Managing debt
  • Monitoring and improving credit reports
  • Understanding insurance and costs
  • Buying and spending wisely
  • Borrowing wisely

These and many other basics are the focus of my blog – Matter of Money- and the goal is to bring practical and actionable resources and knowledge so the right foundation is set and financial goals can be reached. Money Matters in every phase of life and in everything we do. Keeping finances front and center in the conversation and empowering you with the knowledge needed for success is my purpose.

Follow Alanna McCargo and the ‘matterofmoney‘ series on Twitter @myhomematters

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