Financial Literacy 2007 - Budgeting
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Interview: Anna Escobedo Cabral

Financial literacy: Key to improving quality of life

I'm pleased to have the opportunity to kick off Bankrate.com's yearlong financial literacy series. As U.S. treasurer, I have the privilege of being able to address groups across the country and to talk about financial education, and to tell them the good news about our strong economy. The latest reports show that 7.2 million jobs have been created since August 2003, which means our economy is growing faster than all the other major industrialized countries combined. Our economy has added jobs for 40 straight months, and the unemployment rate is 4.5 percent, below the average of the last four decades. The president and his economic advisers, including Secretary Paulson, remain committed to promoting policies that will keep our economy growing and raise the standard of living for future generations.

At a glance
Name: Anna Escobedo Cabral
Title: Treasurer of the United States
Hometown: San Bernardino, Calif.
Career highlights:
  • 42nd Treasurer of the United States
  • Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Center for Latino Initiatives
  • President and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility
  • Deputy Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Orrin G. Hatch
  • Executive Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs

It's wonderful to have strong economic growth and low unemployment, but we also want to help Americans make the most of what they've earned. That is why the Treasury Department is focused on improving financial literacy throughout our country. One of the ways we're working to accomplish this goal is through the Financial Literacy and Education Commission. The commission brings together representatives from 20 agencies across the federal government to exchange ideas and work together in ongoing financial education efforts.

We've also partnered with the public and the private sectors to promote the importance of financial education and to help bring together resources to better serve our citizens. Last year, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission released The National Strategy for Financial Literacy. The Commission has also developed a financial education Web site and toll-free hot line, in English and Spanish -- www.MyMoney.gov and (888) MyMoney.

Bankrate's senior reporter Holden Lewis asked Ms. Cabral the following questions about the importance of financial literacy and how our nation is addressing the topic for its citizens.

q_v2.gifDescribe some of the biggest gaps in financial literacy that need to be filled.

a_v2.gifFirst, let me point out that in the past few years we've seen a lot of progress, and quite frankly, a significant increase in the quality and quantity of financial education resources and materials produced by federal, state and local governments, as well as the private and nonprofit sectors.

In general, we've made good progress in laying the foundation for improvements in financial education, but much work remains. One of the biggest challenges we face has to do with delivering important information and resources effectively. That is why it is so important that governments, communities and organizations at all levels work together to reach the people who need this information the most.

The Financial Literacy and Education Commission and the Treasury Department continue to reach out to our partners in the field -- those trusted organizations within local communities -- to help us identify best practices for delivering this message.

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q_v2.gif You have occasionally talked about how, in the aftermath of Katrina, some survivors suffered needless hardship because they were unbanked and lacked financial literacy. Can you give some examples of how lack of financial literacy made things worse for people?

a_v2.gifIn recent years, regulators and financial institutions have worked to establish contingency plans to ensure stability of regional financial markets following an emergency. As a result, people who hold accounts at financial institutions are significantly less vulnerable to financial disruption during emergencies.

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