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Teaching Young People About Personal Finance

Financial literacy organizations aim to teach young people about finance and credit before they get into debt. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

April is National Financial Literacy Month in the United States. As the country faces a deep recession, Americans are paying closer attention to personal finance. Some critics partly blame the crisis on Americans’ low savings rate and high personal debt.

But efforts to increase financial knowledge have grown in the last ten years. Government, community and business leaders have pushed for teaching young people about the importance of saving, budgets and the true cost of credit.

The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy is based in Washington, D.C. It is an organization of about one hundred eighty groups, government agencies and businesses. Its goal is to provide financial knowledge to children and young adults before they get into debt.

Jump$tart’s Executive Director Laura Levine says many young people misuse credit cards without meaning to. She says they often start by making the lowest payment required. Over time, their credit limit is increased, but they do not pay off their debt. Laura Levine says young people can take on more debt than they can deal with.

The government says forty-five percent of college students have credit card debt. The average amount owed is more than three thousand dollars.

High credit limits are especially dangerous for college students. John Ninfo is a bankruptcy judge in Rochester, New York. He started the Credit Abuse Resistance Education Program.

It provides resources on its Web site for parents, teachers and students about financial issues. Judge Ninfo says he often sees people in their late twenties seeking bankruptcy protection in court. He says the combination of credit card debt and big student loans is burying young people in debt and driving many of them to bankruptcy.

The results of bad credit can be serious. Seventy percent of employers look at the credit histories of job candidates. In some fields, like law enforcement, bad credit means you cannot get a job.

Former President George Bush formed the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy last year. That group has called for students at all grade levels to receive financial education. Currently, only seventeen states require personal finance to be taught at least as part of other courses.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. Transcripts and archives are at I'm Steve Ember.