NEW YORK -- Dan Iannicola, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Treasury Department, talked about the big picture and resources when it comes to financial literacy during the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions' Financial Literacy Day.
"Make no mistake; we're in a national teachable moment and you're all a part of it," Iannicola said. "We don't want people to think that regulation should replace financial literacy. Both have a place and they should compliment each other."
Looking at the big picture, Iannicola pointed out the while choices in the marketplace have increased, financial knowledge has stayed the same.
"Education needs to help bridge the gap. I've talked to people in similar economies around the world. and they're in the same place as us. The state has put more emphasis on the individual."
When looking for resources to help bridge that gap, Iannicola discussed developments by the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission and the Presidential Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. The commission developed a reference guide to financial literacy program providers called 'Taking Ownership of the Future: The National Strategy for Financial Literacy.' The guide was created in 2006 and has been updated.
The commission also developed a Web site, mymoney.gov, and a toll-free telephone number, 1-888-MYMONEY, to provide educational materials to consumers.
Another Web site aimed at teaching youth financial literacy, www.controlyourcredit.gov, has also been developed along with commercials and radio public-service announcement that target young audiences.
The commission also developed a National Financial Education Network, where network members submitted financial literacy materials that are available to the public on the Web site, www.flecnationalnetwork.org.
For financial literacy program providers, such as credit unions, the commission also has a technical assistance center that providers can all to get help setting up a program or for advice on programs. The center can be accessed online at www.treasury.gov/financialeducation or at 202-622-9372.
In May, the advisory council launched a national challenge, 30-question test for high school students. Teachers can sign up for students to take the test, and students that do well earn a medal, and students that place in the top quarter get a certificate. So far, Iannicola said that 46,000 students have taken the test nationwide, with an average score of 56% and only 35 students scored 100%. The council will be administering the test again in November.
"Money Math: Lessons for Life" is another resource available that Iannicola highlighted. Money Math is a middle-school curriculum that combines math and financial literacy that is available for free on the www.treasury.gov Web site.
In his advice to attendees, Iannicola said that when developing financial literacy programs, providers should find out what is relevant to the audience and make sure the audience is listening. He also said to make sure to include programs for both youth and adults.
"Teachers teach the lesson, but parents give the example," Iannicola said.
Iannicola also stressed the need to pay attention to not just what you're saying, but how it might be heard.
"The goal is to have a skeptical, not cynical, consumer. You have to realize not what you're saying, but what consumers are hearing. You can't say all these financial institutions and practices are bad, but now give us your money."
Iannicola concluded by urging attendees to take a trip into the field and see financial literacy programs being taught. He encouraged sitting in the back of a class and listening to comments people make about the program.
"You're doing important work here," Iannicola said. "Financial literacy is key, and now other people know it, too. I hope we can replace financial insecurity with security and turn people's lives into lives of hope instead of chance."