Partners (Second Quarter 2004)

Partners in Financial Education

Over the past year, I have seen a tremendous increase in interest about financial and economic education, and I can’t stress enough how important this topic is to both children and adults. Recently I attended a large economic education summit held here at the Atlanta Fed and learned that, statistically, more kids drop out of college because of financial difficulties than for any other reason.

Let’s face it, times have changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. When I attended college, it was not the norm for students to receive pre-approved personal lines of credit. And though many of us struggled to make ends meet, we generally weren’t overwhelmed with credit card debt before graduation.

Today, credit cards have taken schools by storm, and students are getting into debt much earlier than ever before. Without proper financial management education, students may be caught in a downward spiral of personal debt before they even start working. Personal bankruptcies have increased dramatically over the past several years, and demand for credit counseling services has risen as well.

As a result of these growing trends, organizations working to provide financial and economic education have multiplied, leading to a host of new programs and initiatives to help students, young people and adults. Although it is encouraging to see so much momentum in addressing these highly important issues, organizations often work in isolation, inventing their own training curricula, instead of partnering with established organizations and making the most of effective resources that already exist.

Rather than creating something new in the area of financial education and putting the Fed seal on it, the Federal Reserve has placed a major emphasis on developing effective partnerships through our System-wide financial and economic education efforts. Our approach is to foster financial literacy by encouraging synergy among existing programs, forming effective, collaborative partnerships in lieu of creating competition. In many of our Districts we have established strong working relationships with a number of national organizations that provide financial and economic education. We have also created a national website that includes information on our program objectives as well as links to nationally recognized initiatives.

Our work at the Atlanta Reserve Bank is extremely “hands on.” With collaboration from our Public Affairs and Human Resources areas, we have established a strong network of educators including Jump$tart Coalition, Junior Achievement, Operation HOPE, Georgia Consortium for Personal Financial Literacy and several other established organizations with proven track records. We have used training programs developed by the FDIC (Money Smart), the National Council on Economic Education and several other organizations to teach both children and adults.

No organization is likely to be able to provide adequate financial and economic education to all people; however, by working together and leveraging existing resources we should be able to make a significant difference in the lives of the many people who need this knowledge.

Juan C. Sanchez
Community Affairs Officer

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