WASHINGTON DC, December 15, 2009 - Embarking on a new partnership between the agencies, U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan met today with students, educators and community leaders to promote strengthened financial capability among the nation's youth. They outlined the first step in this effort, the National Financial Capability Challenge, a national award program that aims to encourage financial education in schools across the country and recognize high-performing teachers, students, and schools.
Informing this focus on youth are findings from a new national financial capability survey released today that measures financial capability levels among U.S. adults. Commissioned by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation and developed in consultation with Treasury and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, the survey shows that young adults display much lower financial literacy than older generations. In addition, the findings on financial behaviors highlight the need to ensure that the next generation starts taking steps now to secure their financial futures.
"The searing lessons of this crisis are already affecting the financial behavior of an entire generation, as Americans start to save more and borrow less," said Secretary Geithner. "We're moving forward with financial reform and strong protection for consumers, but we must also do a better job making sure our students graduate from high school with a better understanding of basic economics, basic finance and the benefits and risks associated with debt."
"The reality is that all children don't know the basics of saving and investing. It's a skill they need to be successful in our economy," said Secretary Duncan. "The initiative we're announcing today with the Department of Treasury is a step in the right direction."
In the wake of the worst financial crisis in modern history, the Administration is committed to making lasting, sustainable changes that leave all Americans on sounder financial footing. A critical part of those changes is already under way as the Administration works with Congress to enact sweeping financial reforms that will create a safer, more stable financial system and provide better protection for consumers and investors and the necessary tools to fight crises early. Yet those efforts alone are not enough. The Administration also believes that individual Americans need better financial education and access to critical resources in order to make smarter financial decisions. Personal responsibility and increased knowledge, skills and access are critical to minimizing the risky financial behavior that contributed to this past economic crisis.
The Department of Treasury and the Department of Education will be working together to help ensure that America's youth are prepared to take responsibility for their financial futures by learning more about personal finance. The first step in that effort, the National Financial Capability Challenge, encourages responsible financial choices that will benefit children now and into adulthood. The Administration aims to enhance resources to support program implementation and expand its reach with a focus on underserved communities, which, according to the FINRA survey, suffer the most from a lack of access to financial education and resources.
Beginning today, teachers, schools, school districts, home-school parents, and youth groups can register online to participate. Starting in early 2010, a teacher tool kit developed by outside experts will be provided to all registered teachers to help them integrate financial topics into their curricula. Educators are encouraged to use these tools and to adopt their own innovative approaches to helping students increase their financial capability. The Challenge exam will be offered from March 15-April 2, 2010. All U.S. high-school aged students are encouraged to take part, and students from every participating school will have an opportunity to win awards.
For more information about the National Financial Capability Challenge, go to: www.challenge.treas.gov
For more information about the FINRA Financial Capability Study, got to: www.finrafoundation.org/capability