Fitch pushes financial literacy

Published 5:45 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Looking ahead to next year’s legislative session, Mississippi Treasurer Lynn Fitch hopes to see financial literacy classes become a mandatory part of high school curriculums.

     “I think we’ve done our kids a disservice when they don’t know how to balance a checkbook,” Fitch said.

     Fitch was the featured speaker at the Wesson Chamber of Commerce banquet Tuesday night. She discussed the duties of the state treasurer, but emphasized her goals for increasing financial literacy among Mississippi students.

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     Currently, state law allows such classes as part of the curriculum but does not require them.

     Fitch said only four states do require education about personal finances, and she hopes Mississippi will become number five.

     “That could be a game changer in the state,” the treasurer said.

     She fears the prevalence of credit and debit cards has made spending money too easy for many people.

     Speaking of young people, Fitch said, “They know how to swipe, but they don’t know how to pay for it.”

     Fitch also discussed the unclaimed property division of her office. After five years, institutions or persons that have money owed to someone they can’t find must turn that money over to the Treasurer’s Office. This money could include insurance checks, utility deposits or old bank accounts.

     “Our mission is to find the owners and give that money back,” Fitch said.

     There’s a searchable database on the website of the treasurer where people can search for their name to see if they have unclaimed money.

     In total, the division has returned about $10 million, Fitch said. That’s of benefit to the rightful owners and the state economy, the treasurer said.

     “When you put that back into the economy, it turns over about three times in the state,” she said.

     Turning to other matters, Fitch, the state’s second female treasurer and first Republican female to hold the office, said she appreciates the opportunity to speak in places like Wesson.

     Pointing to her own upbringing in small Holly Springs, Fitch said she loves the “close knit” nature of these places.