U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) today announced a series of actions aimed at increasing financial literacy in the United States, including the formation of the Senate Financial Literacy Caucus, and legislation designating April as "Financial Literacy Month." The two Senators teamed up last week to co-chair Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill, an annual event that showcases available resources for sound, long-term financial planning.
The focus on financial literacy seeks to encourage Americans to develop and maintain healthy financial habits, beginning at an early age and continuing through adulthood and retirement. This is especially critical in light of high unemployment in many states, including Rhode Island, and a growing student loan debt crisis in the U.S., a topic Reed addressed last week in a blog post for The Council for Economic Education.
"From managing a household budget to making major purchases, paying for college, starting a business, and laying the groundwork for a secure retirement, basic financial literacy is essential to success," said Reed. "Unfortunately, too many Americans lack the knowledge needed to make informed financial decisions, and that's something that can have implications for their children, local communities, and generations to come. Raising awareness about the resources available to improve financial literacy is the first step on the path to a financially secure future."
"Americans have faced tougher and tougher economic times in recent years, which makes it even more essential for individuals to be financially literate," said Enzi. "Financial literacy isn't just about balancing a checkbook, it is about having all the resources and information to plan your own financial future with full understanding of the risks and rewards. The more importance financial literacy is given -- the better off this country will be."
In forming the Senate Financial Literacy Caucus, Reed and Enzi seek to facilitate a bipartisan forum for sharing information about effective financial management programs and practices, while promoting better and more efficient coordination and collaboration across federal financial literacy initiatives. The Reed-Enzi resolution designating April as "Financial Literacy Month" is also a bipartisan effort, co-sponsored by Senators Murray (D-WA), Barrasso (R-WY), Coons (D-DE), Crapo (R-ID), Durbin (D-IL), Blunt (R-MO), Heitkamp (D-MN), Wicker (R-MS), Merkley (D-OR), Cochran (R-MS), Warner (D-VA), Begich (D-AK), Carper (D-DE), King (I-ME), Hagan (D-NC), Johnson (R-WI), and Cardin (D-MD).
Working to improve financial literacy and money management education is a recurrent policy issue for Reed. Last year, Reed and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the Family Self-Sufficiency Act, an effort to help low-income families receiving federal housing assistance develop the skills they need to improve their financial status and achieve greater economic independence. Among other provisions, the legislation allowed for financial literacy training to help families make prudent financial decisions to better safeguard their earnings.
Reed's work on financial literacy follows in the tradition of Enzi's longtime partner on this issue, former U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), who was a champion of expanding what he called the "three vital components of financial literacy:" education, consumer protection, and economic empowerment. Akaka was responsible for the first resolution designating April as "Financial Literacy Month," passed by the Senate in April 2004.