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SOUTH AMBOY, N.J. – Hoping to improve across-the-board financial literacy, from young children to senior citizens, the State of New Jersey is bringing educational materials right where they’re needed – directly into the hands of consumers and into the communities where they live. Through a public/private partnership called the New Jersey Financial Literacy Awareness Network (NJFLAN), member organizations ranging from credit unions to community churches are sponsoring public access literature display cases that can be set up at their own facilities or at other high-traffic neighborhood locations, particularly in low- and moderate-income areas around the state. “Governor McGreevey has made it a priority to support reading and writing programs that help improve overall literacy,” said New Jersey Director of Banking H. Robert Tillman at the June 15 ribbon cutting that officially kicked off NJFLAN. “The governor also realizes the importance of developing consumers’ financial literacy. Many young people simply lack basic skills in how to manage their personal affairs. Basic financial skills should start developing as early as possible in the life of a child.” Using a student-run branch of Raritan Bay FCU as a backdrop, the kickoff event demonstrated how materials – currently available in English and Spanish – can be customized according to age group and target audience. Display racks also can be customized with the sponsoring organization’s logo. Through a series of online tools, such as credit-rating calculators and quizzes, NJFLAN’s organizers also hope to assist and track the progress of individuals who participate in financial education programs offered by community organizations that are part of the network. “We’re really pleased to be a sponsoring organization for this,” said Raritan Bay FCU President and CEO Tom O’Shea. “It gives us another opportunity to bring financial literature into the community. It also gives members resources that they can take away with them, helping them learn the importance of knowing how money works and how it can work for them.” NJFLAN is the brainchild of Raritan Bay FCU member Dont Bell, an IT consultant who also is working as NJFLAN coordinator. “I owe special thanks to Director Tillman for taking this vision and making it a reality,” Bell said. According to Bell, easy access to the materials will be the key of the program’s success, particularly in areas where Internet access is not widely available. “It’s all about making an impulse decision,” Bell says. “You walk into the barber shop, the hair salon and you see something that might be good for your son, daughter, niece or nephew. It’s like going into the store and coming out with candy. You didn’t go there to get candy, yet you came out with one or two.” Once the NJFLAN program gets off the ground, Bell will be working on presenting the program as a model not only for other states around the country but also for organizations around the world. And for Bell, a good sign of the program’s intended effect is seeing how his own children – 8-year-old JeVon and 4-year-old Jaden – react to the reading materials. “They read the pamphlets and give me book reports on what they read,” Bell said. “JeVon reads to Jaden, and they can’t get enough. Sometimes they ask questions that even I can’t answer. “I just think that if we had access to all of this when we were young, I can’t imagine what we could do today,” he added. Among the groups supporting NJFLAN are the New Jersey Credit Union League, the New Jersey Bankers Association, the New Jersey League of Community Bankers and the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education. For more information, log on to www.njflan.com. [email protected]

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