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Our view: Take the time to become Money Smart

7:56 PM, Apr. 7, 2014  |  Comments
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Very few days pass for most adults without handling money in some form or fashion. Whether it is via cash, check, credit or electronic transfer, we deal in money - real and virtual - nearly every day. For an activity so common, we could all do with a little more common sense, or maybe it's more accurate to say practical knowledge, about money.

That is the purpose of Money Smart Week, which runs through Sunday in Wisconsin. A variety of activities are planned throughout the week to help people become savvier about topics like credit ratings, tax planning and buying a home.

Our tendency is to leave these kinds of things to the financial "experts." While their help often is needed and recommended, there are many basic things in the financial realm that we need to educate ourselves about. It should not be confined to a specially designated week, however.

Our schools - and by extension parents - must take the initiative to teach young people financial basics. Some schools in our area, including junior highs, already do this by conducting "reality" training on topics like balancing a checkbook, "purchasing" cars and organizing household budgets. This kind of education is invaluable, even if it uses "fake" money and lines of credit.

We should teach children early the value of saving, not spending beyond their means, and being good stewards of their financial resources. It does not take a professional to learn these basics.

Money Smart Week was launched in 2002 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to raise public awareness and promote financial education across all age groups. It is a valiant effort, but like many designated causes needs attention throughout the year to remain effective. It is safe to say that Money Smart Week efforts like presentations by financial planners are not generally well attended.

That is unfortunate. People generally don't take advantage of the opportunity to learn about financial matters until it involves them personally. But everyone has a stake in financial literacy. Young people not taught the right way to handle finances will become adults who don't know how to handle finances.

If enough adults don't have this knowledge, society has a problem. We're not suggesting that everyone needs to become a certified financial expert. It is helpful, however, to know the basics to avoid some of the pitfalls people encounter when not adequately trained in the use of money and other financial products.

There is a wealth of information on the topic at www.moneysmartweek.org. Click on the Find Events tab to discover what is happening statewide and locally. There also are a number of resources on topics like Internet banking, preventing financial fraud, identity theft, the new health insurance marketplace, other insurance options, money management for college students, and how to get help with debt, among others.

Take the time. You will be a richer person for taking the time to become informed about money and financial topics.

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