Dear Readers: Every week I attempt to answer your questions so you can make the smartest financial decisions for yourself and your family. This week, though, I'd like to depart from the usual format to speak to you more broadly about — and to enlist your help in — the drive toward financial literacy.
And here's why. As a society, most of us — and not just the young — are suffering from a severe lack of financial literacy. Young adults, middle-aged adults, older adults, men and women across the spectrum of education and wealth are all included. And unfortunately, the stakes have never been higher: No one is going to step in and take care of us. No one else will pay our overdue credit card bills, force us to save for retirement, or keep us from living beyond our means. We've got to do these things for ourselves.
But the good news is that every single one of you can be part of the solution, starting with these straightforward steps:
—Start at home. Educate yourself and begin an honest discussion about money within your family. Know where your money is going and think carefully about your trade-offs. Save for the future and be a good role model for your children. If you're not sure about which insurance policy is best or when to file for Social Security, take the time to find the right answer. Don't hesitate to seek professional help.
—Find out if your children's schools include financial education in their curricula. If not, speak up. If you're qualified, offer to conduct a financial workshop. Or find experts who can.
—If you own a business, offer financial education to your employees as part of your benefit plan. You can call in the services of a financial institution that provides educational materials and guidance. After all, financial security makes for more productive employees.
—Encourage your elected officials to promote financial education wherever possible: in our schools, our workplaces, and through government programs.
As some of you may know, we at the Charles Schwab Foundation are trying to do our part. We devote the lion share of our human and financial resources to promoting and improving financial literacy across the country. In fact, right now we're wrapping up our annual Schwab Volunteer Week — a nationwide effort in which nearly 4,000 employees roll up their sleeves and pitch in to improve the financial well-being of their communities.
I'm especially proud of Charles Schwab Foundation's work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, where hundreds of Schwab employees volunteered last week and throughout the year. Many of us know that BGCA promotes and protects the well-being of hundreds of thousands of our underprivileged youth across the country. But what you might not fully appreciate, unless you've experienced it firsthand, is the genuine passion and commitment that they bring to their work. I couldn't be prouder to report that we are now celebrating having the 500,000th BGCA teen complete our Money Matters financial-education program.
No doubt the drive to financial literacy is bigger than any one of us alone. But if today's young adults or tomorrow's retirees are going to have a fighting chance at a secure and fulfilling future, we've all got to act — and now. We can all follow the lead of the BGCA, and make a difference.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(tm), is president of Charles Schwab Foundation and author of "The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty," available in bookstores. Read more at http://schwab.com/book. You can e-mail Carrie at [email protected] This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager. The Charles Schwab Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, private foundation that is not part of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. ("Schwab") or its parent company, The Charles Schwab Corporation. The Charles Schwab Foundation and the Charles Schwab Corporation (and its affiliates) are unaffiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. To find out more about Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.