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Tips from the Financial Literacy Group

by Ouida on May 7, 2010


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About 5 years ago I came across and article in the Albuquerque Journal.  A group out of Santa Fe had procured a grant to travel the state and host financial literacy seminars for women the grant targeted women for two reasons: First because the odds are overwhelming that at some point in her life a woman will become the financial head of household and second because women are more responsible with money than men.  Teaching women about financial literacy and how to make sound financial decisions can help keep families out of poverty.  Other organizations like RoomtoRead.org seek to raise the standard of living in communities by targeting young women and providing them with books.  Programs aimed at improving the educational level of young girls are at least as effective as providing contraception in reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancy and early child rearing two correlates of poverty in communities.

I contacted the group from Santa Fe and they agreed to come to Gallup, NM.  I just had to advertise the seminar and find a venue.  The venue part was easy.  Low cost advertising was not.  I tried word of mouth but got few committals for people to attend.  I put up a sign in our local chamber of commerce.  On the day of the event, I approached the head of our hospital and asked permission to send a mass e-mail to hospital staff.

The event was well attended, standing room only.  It is pretty clear to me that people want information about how to manage their money.  Most folks are willing to attend a class, but few are willing to read a book or ten or make learning and living financial literacy a habit. But attending a seminar is a start.

The leaders of that seminar espoused a philosophy that is antithetical to the way that most people, especially women who tend to nurture the people in their lives, think.  What they advised was not to put any money away for your child’s college until all savings and retirement needs are met.  Their rationale was simple, having a comfortable retirement depends on the length of time money is put away for retirement and it is hard to make that amount of money up later in life.  “Your child can always take out loans,” they said.  They also said that a child is likely to be more responsible with the money if they are taking out loans.

During my mother’s talk on financial literacy that I alluded to in an earlier post, she expressed considerable concern that graduating with significant undergraduate debt would stunt the economic prospects for kids.  In this arena, I truly don’t know what to think. My mother and I had a deal.  She took care of undergraduate school and I was responsible for my graduate education.  It makes me quake in my boots to think that the assistance that my mother provided my brother and me may have stunted her retirement prospects, yet I did ask the question in an earlier post if living in a pension-less society will force parents to choose themselves over their children when planning for the future.

Today is May 7th.  Yesterday the DOW lost 998 points in intraday trading. The year is 2010 not 2008.  We are supposed to be experiencing an economic recovery.  We had a net gain of 290,000 jobs in April, beating economists’ forecasts yet the markets are down.  The markets are really like a party.  The folks who arrive early have their choice of the available foods and can eat their fill, the folks who arrive later are left to pick over the remains and the folks who arrive at the end of the party are shut out altogether.  Trouble is that when the food first arrives it seems to be without limit.  No one knows when it will run out but everyone understands that it will run out.  Those who benefited from the unprecedented bull market of the 1990s were in the market in the 1980s, they were early arrivals to the party.  The market activity of the last 24 hours  proves, yet again, that you cannot use the markets to goose retirement savings, so the only asset you have is time: saving early, saving often and prioritizing that saving over everything else.

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