…financial literacy

April is our nation’s official “Financial Literacy Month.” Among all the issues that have garnered attention from both the current and the past presidential administrations, I find the consensus this one issue has achieved, refreshing. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have supported the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission, a group established “with the purpose of improving the financial literacy and education of persons in the United States” (mymoney.gov). About twenty federal agencies, including the FTC, SEC, SBA, DOL, DOT, FDIC and other acronyms that many MBAs are familiar with, are supporting this mission.

This Commission’s website is replete with informational resources including information on budgeting, taxes, saving and investing, financial planning, home ownership, privacy, fraud, scams, retirement, and establishing a small business. I thought I would feel a bit more confident using their financial calculators compared to the ones offered by financial firms, but unfortunately, the site crashed multiple times when I visited in preparing this article. Still, I was able to enjoy their Public Service Announcements (PSAs), as well as various other pages offering advice and warning visitors about the classic “Advance Fee Loan” and “Foreclosure Rescue” scams.

As you might imagine, federal agencies do not have a monopoly on this issue. While researching this topic, I found that several states have also created their own departments of financial literacy (VT, WA, WI were some of the most prominent on my searches) and educational agencies –such as Oklahoma’s—have promulgated standards in an effort to make their middle- and high-schoolers more financially aware and wiser than the previous generations.

If you are a member of the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs), you might be familiar with feedthepig.org, a website developed to “encourage and help Americans aged 25 to 34 to take control of their personal finances;” my guess is that most MBA students –Hispanic or not!—fall within this age range and would find the website’s suggestions quite useful. Among the topics that are covered in this site, we find “Gadget Habit,” “Pack-a-day,” “Weekend Tripper,” “Nails,” “Hair,” “Happy Hour,” “Season Tickets,” “Premium cable,” “Phone Plan Overages,” and many more.  If you can relate with these titles, check out the tests, the videos and the challenges in this site. You might end up with a strong “ROE” (Return on "Entertainment") in this particular URL!

But if your age is in a different range, then you might be interested in visiting 360financialliteracy.org, another website sponsored by AICPA and the Ad Council that includes non-promotional financial advice from childhood until retirement, along with brief movies, articles, questions, books, etc.

Of particular interest to me as a researcher who often writes on gender issues was their section for women. While some of the content within this section was not gender-specific (e.g., “What Savings or Investment Products Are Not FDIC Insured?”), there are articles on advice for newlyweds, baby arrivals, children from previous marriages, integration of health insurance benefits and much more, that can be of particular interest to women who want to make better informed financial decisions.

This site also has information sections for our “Military and Reserves” friends, for “Entrepreneurs,” for the “Sandwich Generation” (individuals who are taking care of both aging parents and children), and several other topics that might be of interest for many readers. I strongly recommend, check it out!

Another information service that I have been subscribed to for a few years is The Wall Street Journal’s marketwatch.com.  Of course, my pension management companies also offer a wealth of helpful resources, but I tend to get a skeptical eye whenever I know that the advice often includes promotions on their own products.

For sports fans, I have to recommend the site financialfootball.com, which is hosting a VISA-sponsored site in collaboration with the approaching 2010 FIFA World Cup. A “Financial Soccer” game is being released in about 21 different versions, for nine different regions of the world and in five languages, including English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, and Russian. Various informational modules are offered free-of-charge in combination with a web-based game that enables users to play a game and practice what they have learned. I certainly hope it is widely accepted in the United States, as well as in Latin America, although the regional versions seem to be now available only for Uruguay, Mexico, Honduras, and Brazil.

If your local NSHMBA chapter has a partnership with another group or a mentoring program for younger students, let me suggest using some of these free resources to help them better their financial future. You might have heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: “those who teach learn twice!”

What do you think? Are you familiar with any resources that might be helpful in achieving the goal of improving our financial literacy? Do you have any related experiences to share in a future column? Send me your thoughts or suggestions via email (drolivaslujan_at_gmail.com), facebook, or LinkedIn.

¡Hasta la próxima!