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Judy Speaks on Financial Literacy

Location: Washington, DC

Judy Speaks on Financial Literacy

Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th)
Credit Union National Association (CUNA)
Financial Literacy Summit
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
National Press Club

Thank you, Juri, and thank you all for inviting me to join you. It's a great pleasure to be with you this morning for these sunrise services.

You have a long day ahead of you, and a great panel of speakers to come, so I'll be brief. As Elizabeth Taylor said to her eighth husband, "I won't keep you long."

Thanks and Acknowledgements

First, I want to say "thank you" to CUNA for holding this summit. Financial illiteracy is such a pervasive problem, at all age levels, that we literally must have "all hands on deck." With its large membership across the country, CUNA is uniquely positioned to touch literally tens of millions of people with your financial literacy programs.

I have had the pleasure of working with many of today's scheduled speakers to promote financial literacy programs of all kinds. Dan Iannicola, who heads the Financial Literacy Education Commission at the Department of Treasury, has done a great job of coordinating the financial literacy efforts of the federal government.

I also have first-hand knowledge of the tireless effort that the folks at NEFE and Jumpstart have committed to improving the financial literacy of all Americans. I have worked with them for several years now, and I can tell you that all of these organizations are great partners, and they're doing a terrific job.

It is encouraging to me that you all have gathered here today to set a financial literacy agenda for the credit union industry. Such leadership is great to see, and you all should also be commended for leading the charge to further educate your state Credit Union Leagues, along with Americans of all ages and income levels about the importance of financial literacy.

Financial Literacy Hearing

For me, today's financial literacy summit could not be timlier. After much preparation, a subcommittee of the Financial Services Committee, on which I serve, will be holding a hearing this Thursday on improving financial literacy. Not unlike what you are doing here today, we will focus on our agenda: how to capitalize on private sector efforts and develop financial education solutions among the many non-governmental groups dedicated to our worthy cause.

The hearing will examine private sector efforts to reach out to leading educators and academics, as well as representatives of the financial services industry, economic and financial literacy organizations, and state governments.

Second, it will address how we can better coordinate private sector efforts with those at the state and federal level.

And third, it will examine at how public-private partnerships can be used to improve economics and finance education.

Along with several private sector organizations, including some that are speaking here this morning, I am delighted that a witness from CUNA will be testifying at the hearing. Not only is he your best advocate, he's my constituent, Carl Sorgatz from Hawthorn Credit Union in Naperville, Illinois. I am looking forward to being on the other side of the microphone and listening to your group's testimony.

Financial Literacy and Education Caucus

This hearing will complement the efforts that I have undertaken to promote financial education at all levels. As co-chairs of the Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus, Congressman Ruben Hinojosa and I have worked with our colleagues in Congress to further promote the financial literacy agenda.

The Caucus now has 79 members and has been an unqualified success. It has been very valuable in educating both the general public and my colleagues in Congress on the importance of financial literacy.

Since its creation, literally hundreds -- if not thousands - of groups and private sector organizations have called on us to offer their help or tell us about their financial literacy programs.

From young students, to the working-class unbanked, to new homeowners, to retirees, there are financial education programs available for virtually every unmet need.

Financial Literacy Month Resolution

Earlier this year, the House passed a resolution declaring April financial literacy month by the narrowest margins, 423-1. The Resolution promotes public and private sector financial literacy programs and activities, something that you all have spent a considerable amount of time and effort doing for many years now.

As partners in this effort, you are to be commended for being so proactive in educating your member institutions and the general public about personal finance and economics.

The resolution also says that Americans have not been managing their personal finances all that well. Some of you know too well the statistics:
-Sixty percent of preteens do not know the difference between cash, credit cards, and checks. The majority of students failed a basic financial literacy exam.
-In the last quarter of 2005, the personal savings rate dropped to negative-point-two-percent -- one of the lowest since the Great Depression.
-Studies show that as many as 10 million households in the United States are 'unbanked.' They don't even have a bank or credit union account.
-37 percent of workers are not currently saving for retirement.

This has to change, and I have been working with Congressman Hinojosa and the Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus to identify solutions to this growing problem. I look forward to working with your leadership and members, including Juri and John McGill, and Don Edwards and Carl Sorgatz in Illinois.

It would make my job a lot easier if the rest of the country would follow your lead as educated lenders. But, in the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that all financial institutions remain committed to ensuring that all Americans are financially literate.

I appreciate your gracious invitation to have me say a few remarks to you this morning. Please feel free to get that second cup of coffee, and enjoy the rest of your conference and your time here in Washington.

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