A course in financial literacy is one subject Americans need most, and yet it is most often omitted from high school and college classes. Math is only one component of financial literacy. Understanding the power of advertising, sales practices, and the consequences of our own behavior are just as important as the functions of arithmetic. Financial ignorance drives many consumers into debt and leaves people vulnerable to fraud or scams. The lack of financial literacy even leads to avoidable habits that can cause a credit score to plummet.
The Federal Trade Commission wants Americans to know that April is consumer literacy month. You can read the full press release here. The FTC website has a host of good information about credit and debt here.
What is the difference between credit and debt? Why does a credit score matter and what factors go into that number? How is "big data" changing the way credit will be scored in the future? What are the risks of credit cards? What is interest and what is a term? How do you fill out a credit application? How do you get a free credit report? How do you buy a car? Does the small print matter? What are your rights as a consumer? What are you choices?
Knowing the answer to these questions will save you money. It will save you money every single day.
One non-profit organization that is trying to change the poor state of financial literacy is FoolProof.
FoolProof's interactive online format is gaining traction in high schools throughout the country. Its programs for service members are impressive. Its customized modular programs address a variety of needs for different ages and levels of financial sophistication. You can find out more about these offerings here.
And finally, if your lack of financial literacy has left you drowning in a pool of trouble, financial literacy can teach you to swim. National Consumer Law Center has published a handy guide called "Surviving Debt." You can purchase it here or find in in your public library.