Learn something new about finance

I am honored to serve as the co-chairman of the Congressional Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus, along with my colleague Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas). I truly believe this issue is so important because many of our country’s economic problems can be addressed by educating Americans of all ages on financial literacy.

The month of April is National Financial Literacy Month and serves as an outstanding opportunity to review our own finances, learn something new on this issue or teach our children about fiscal responsibility.

I was pleased to learn of a recent Fidelity Investments survey that looked at Americans’ spending habits since the recession hit. According to the survey, Americans have been doing a better job saving for retirement, paying off their debt and saving for emergencies. The poll found that 42 percent of those polled increased their emergency funds, 72 percent said they have less debt now than when the recession started and 42 percent have increased their retirement savings. 

Americans have become more fiscally responsible in these tough economic times. This is the good news. The bad news is that there is still work to be done. Around 28 percent of Americans have no savings cushion, and nearly a fourth of those in the middle class don’t have a significant retirement savings. 

We are all responsible for our own fiscal future. Learning about IRAs and mutual funds, regularly contributing money to a savings account and implementing a retirement plan are just a few steps that can be taken to become more financially secure. These steps can mean the difference between retiring at a time of your choosing and continuing to work well after you hit retirement age. If you would like to learn more about setting yourself up for financial success, there many great opportunities.

One option is attending the 11th annual Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill, which will be held from noon to 3:30 p.m. on Friday at the Cannon House Office Building, in the Cannon Caucus Room. There will be free, individualized financial consultations for congressional staffers and other attendees at the event, as well as an open-house with information on financial literacy programs and initiatives, provided by more than 60 participants from various sectors, including business, financial, educational nonprofit, trade association, academic and government.

There are also a few helpful websites; one source is the U.S. Treasury Department’s resource center (at www.treasury.gov/resource-center), and another is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Money Smart website. More information on the FDIC program can be found at www.fdic.gov/consumers


We also should take this opportunity to talk to our children about fiscal responsibility. A recent Columbus Dispatch story by Theodore Decker highlighted that today’s younger Americans are uneducated on the negative impact of carrying too much debt. It is estimated that this generation of young people is taking on more credit card debt than the generations who came before them. 

As a parent of two small children myself, I know it is important we help the next generation understand finances and the impact of their financial decisions. When I was younger, my dad gave me a credit card with a $200 limit. With the low limit placed on the card, I was able to responsibly learn how credit worked, while he was able to monitor my progress. And when the time comes in the near future, I plan to teach my own children how money and spending works, the importance of saving and being responsible with credit. 

 If you are looking for resources to talk with your children about finances, check out Jump$tart (www.jumpstart.org), a national coalition of organizations dedicated to improving financial literacy in those in kindergarten through college. 

This April, I hope you will consider taking steps to learn something new about finances. Perhaps you could set up a family budget, or just talk to your kids about financial responsibility. Even small steps can make a difference in your financial future. 

Stivers is currently serving his second term as a member of Congress. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee and is co-chairman of the Congressional Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus. He is a 28-year veteran of the Ohio Army National Guard and resides in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, Karen, and children, Sarah and Sam.