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Supporting The Goals And Ideals Of National Financial Literacy Month, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a cosponsor of House Resolution 1257, which recognizes April as Financial Literacy Month, and I would strongly urge my colleagues to support it.

I would like to begin by thanking my good friend and fellow chair of the House Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus, Mr. Hinojosa, for sponsoring this legislation and for his continuing efforts to improve financial literacy rates in America.

Since 2005, when Mr. Hinojosa and I formed the caucus, financial literacy has grown from an interesting offshoot of economic education to a key element in numerous efforts on and off the Hill to protect consumers, improve financial security, help manage debt, assist in retirement planning, and prepare our children to prosper in today's sophisticated marketplace.

We've also seen financial literacy programs become successful centerpieces of campaigns to bring independence and family security to impoverished and underserved populations, women, minorities, and even victims of hurricanes or domestic violence.

For example, with help from the Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence, thousands of abuse victims nationwide have benefited from the Economic Empowerment for Domestic Violence Survivors program. It empowers victims of domestic violence with a financial strategy to escape abusive households and help provide them with resources and training to achieve independence.

Mr. Speaker, Financial Literacy Month is a chance to recognize and support the work of countless organizations like these around America--and the leadership of groups like the Jumpstart Coalition, Junior Achievement, and the Council for Economic Education--for all they do to educate American consumers and, most importantly, our children.

It's also an opportunity to recognize how much more work remains to be done. According to the FDIC, as was mentioned, approximately 60 million people in the United States are either unbanked or underbanked. Sixty percent of preteens do not even know the difference between cash, credit cards, and checks, and yet only 26 percent of new students are actively learning financial planning from their parents.

And according to the national Foundation for Credit Counseling's latest consumer survey, one-third of adults, or more than 75 million people, are not putting any part of their income towards retirement, up from 28 percent in 2008. These are troubling numbers. And in today's economic climate, the financial challenges and choices facing consumers have only grown.

That's why, as Congress reviews our national education guidelines and takes up far-reaching changes to our country's regulations, we must keep in mind one of the most important benefits of financial literacy as expressed in this resolution today before us: Financial education is the first line of defense against financial fraud.

When it comes to preparing against economic uncertainty, recognizing deceptive practices, building credit, or making dozens of other day-to-day financial decisions, nothing protects consumers and their financial security more effectively than arming them, even as young students, with a sound foundation in financial literacy.

Consumers benefit most from more financial options, not fewer, and with the right information and education, individual Americans are best equipped to avoid financial pitfalls, analyze risk, and make financial decisions that hold the greatest benefit for their future and that of their families.

With that, I would just like to once again thank my good friend and colleague, Mr. Hinojosa, for bringing this resolution to the floor, and I would like to also recognize the hard work of his dedicated staff, especially Greg Davis, for all their efforts.

And finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to encourage all of my colleagues and their staffs to attend this year's financial literacy day fair on Capitol Hill. As Mr. Hinojosa mentioned, but I think it bears repeating, it's going to be held next Tuesday, April 27, where Members will be able to find a broad array of financial education materials and ideas for reaching out to constituents on this important issue. This year, it is being hosted on the Senate side, in Hart 902, by Senators Akaka and Enzi, and invitations should be arriving soon to each office.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support House Resolution 1257, and I reserve the balance of my time.


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