By Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Florida Department of Financial Services.
As I reflect on today’s economy, I can’t help but think about how dramatically the cost of living has changed in the past 20 years. In the 1990s, we were paying roughly $2.15 for a gallon of milk and $1.09 for a gallon of gas. Within the last couple of decades, the cost of these items and many other daily staples has dramatically increased.
Our national leaders are struggling to balance the nation’s budget, just as many Americans struggle to balance their household budgets. We live in an economic time when money is short and everyone is trying to find a way to do more with less.
I believe that the leaders across our nation should endeavor to prepare our future generations with the skills they need to be successful not only professionally, but in their personal lives as well. The financial lessons and skills we teach our young people through instruction or by example develop the building blocks that will help determine their success.
Currently, there are 13 states that require high school students to take a personal financial literacy course as a requirement for graduation. Florida’s leadership has already begun taking the necessary steps to institute a requirement for students to complete a personal financial literacy course in high school. I am proud of the efforts Florida has made and will continue to make as more leaders recognize the importance of teaching financial literacy early.
Recent research conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education has proved that financial education influences behavior. Students who graduate in a state that requires a personal financial literacy course are more likely to save, less likely to incur high credit card debt, and more likely to take better financial risks as young adults.
As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, I have worked with my staff to identify and provide resources to Floridians of all ages. In 2011, I launched Your Money Matters, which provides financial resources for individuals of all life phases. Another website, On Guard for Seniors, was launched in early 2012 and is dedicated to providing seniors with information they need to make sound insurance and financial decisions as their needs change over time. Last fall, I hosted a Small Business Leadership Forum which brought small business leaders and entrepreneurs together with investors and academic and industry experts to provide tools and resources to help small businesses succeed in the current economic environment. Most recently, in February, I launched Financial Frontlines, a new website that provides information and resources to help Florida’s 58,000 military service members fight back against financial fraud and debt.
I encourage financial leaders across the country to identity innovative and creative ways to promote financial literacy in their states. It’s never too late for someone to reassess their finances and create a better financial future for themselves and their family, nor has it ever been more urgent.
Together we can bring the nation and Florida into the forefront of the financial education movement.
Follow Jeff on twitter @JeffAtwater.