Financial education would help people avoid dangers of debt

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Speaking to Brookhaven Kiwanis Wednesday, State Treasurer TateReeves started by talking about national economic woes and ended bydiscussing an effort to improve financial education. If more peoplecould hear the ending of the treasurer’s speech, we might not havethe problems mentioned in the beginning.

“We really are not doing a good job of financial education,”Reeves said.

Millions of Americans have yet to grasp the lesson that debt isthe result of spending more money than they have. Whether it is amatter of “keeping up the Joneses” or some other reasons, manycredit card companies and other lenders – both the reputable anddisreputable – have gotten rich from people running up debt.

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Bankrate Inc. statistics cited by financial consultants HoffmanBrinker and Roberts in a recent article reveal Americans’conflicting attitudes about debt. According to the report, “91percent believe debt can be controlled by disciplined saving andspending, 72 percent also believe that debt is a part of modernlife and difficult to avoid.”

Bringing the discussion back to Reeves, improving financialeducation could show people in the first category ways to go about”disciplined saving and spending.” At the same time, hopefully,those in the second category will see debt is not something tosimply live with and is indeed something that can be avoided.

The difficulty, Reeves said, is convincing lawmakers to spendmoney for financial education when results may not be seen for 25years or more down the road. Reeves, though, is continuing to workwith officials in other states to encourage creation of financialeducational programs.

The treasurer’s efforts should be encouraged. But until thoseefforts come to fruition, citizens would do well to educatethemselves on the dangers of debt and how to avoid it.