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WASHINGTON-Treasury, NCUA and other federal agencies participated last week in the unveiling of the national strategy for financial literacy. Taking Ownership of the Future: The National Strategy for Financial Literacy was released during a press event at the Treasury Department, which was attended by Secretary John Snow and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Education Dan Iannicola, as well as NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson, among others. “Today’s increasingly complex financial services market offers consumers a vast array of products, services, and providers to choose from to meet their financial needs,” the report read. “While this degree of choice provides consumers with a great number of options, it also requires that they be equipped with the information, knowledge, and skills to evaluate their options and identify those that best suit their needs and circumstances. This is especially the case for populations that have traditionally been underserved by our financial system.” The report is the result of two years worth of work, initiated by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. The FACT Act established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, which worked on the report and Johnson participated in. “I’m pleased to see the role of financial education rise to the current level of prominence under the direction of Treasury Secretary Snow,” she commented. “Credit unions are now well positioned and better equipped to act on their long term commitment to deliver financial education to their members. Financial education is the key that unlocks confidence and peace of mind that comes with homeownership, a nest egg for unexpected or planned events, college education, or the ability to own a business.” The major goals of the strategy are creating awareness of financial education centers, facilitating access to and use of helpful information in the most useful format, helping consumers differentiate between financial education and marketing, and helping consumers identify “reliable and unbiased” resources. “Credit unions are mentioned in a number of different places,” CUNA Associate General Counsel Mary Dunn pointed out. She added that the CUNA/CUNA Mutual campus in Madison, Wis. will host one of several regional unveiling ceremonies nationwide. Promotional materials will also include the Web site (www.mymoney.gov) and national airings of public service announcements beginning this fall. The strategy cited a Maryland credit union that offers a first-time homebuyer program with step-by-step assistance and provides a supplemental online course and educational workshops. It tells how an armed services credit union provides personnel and their families over 200 financial training presentations on good credit, financial management, credit reports and other issues, as well as online tools and brochures. A Florida credit union is offering free credit scoring seminars, while NCUA is encouraging credit unions to reach out through Access Across America with key focuses on homeownership, Health Savings Accounts, small business lending, and serving the underserved. Additionally, credit unions are named just about everywhere banks and thrifts are mentioned in the report as potential financial institutions for American consumers for products like Individual Development Accounts and sources of information. The report acknowledges that the U.S. is not the only country facing the challenge of creating a financially literate population. “Reaching the goal of a financially educated population will take time, but the commission is encouraged by the many excellent programs and partnerships currently working to improve American financial literacy levels,” it stated. -

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