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PURCHASE, N.Y. – Financial literacy has generally focused on helping consumers stay out of debt, but a new program from MasterCard International, the nation’s second largest card brand, is aimed at helping consumers conquer the debt they may have already accrued. “One way that this program differs from what has come before or from other financial literacy programs is that our Debt Know How program will try to help people get out of debt and not just avoid getting into debt in the first place,” explained Heidi Davidson, a vice president with the brand. The program will roll out over the course of the summer and into the fall, Davidson explained, and will include nationwide Web-based seminars as well as local seminars co-sponsored by MasterCard and its issuing institutions, along with regulators and legislators. The program is still signing up legislators and regulators, Davidson said and she reported that both groups have received the program well. The effort will also link people struggling with debt with one-on-one counselors, she added, and the card brand will train others she said. Davidson declined to say how much money the card brand is investing in the program and would only say that the association has spent more than $2 million on the effort already. MasterCard rolled out the program in order to coordinate with Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill and Davidson said the effort, which had been in the works for over a year, was only intended to address the need for greater degrees of financial education. But she also acknowledged that the program is particularly timely with the passage of the bankruptcy reform bill. “It’s no secret that we backed bankruptcy reform,” Davidson said, “but we also believe that the best bankruptcies are those that never have to happen because the consumers had gotten out of debt before reaching that point.” “It was the turtle, not the hare that won the race” the effort’s Web site says by way of encouragement. “Most likely, it took you awhile to get into debt. Acknowledge that you’re not going to get out overnight. Keep yourself motivated. And remember, getting out of debt will change your outlook on life. It’s worth doing the hard work to get there.” -

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