Once during the summer just prior to my senior year inhigh school, I answered the door to find myself face to face with a man in anill-fitting suit holding a clipboard.
As best as I can recall, he was running for some obscuretown office as a write-in candidate and was soliciting signatures. Anxious toget back to that afternoon's edition of my then-favorite game show "SplitSecond," I quickly signed and promptly forgot about it.
Shortly thereafter came a barrage of phone calls askingme if I'd like to canvass my neighborhood with campaign literature andencouraging me to make phone calls on his behalf.
My father quickly put a stop to it, but not before headministered a rather stern lecture (complete with a not-too-cushioned headslap for added emphasis) on the importance of knowing what you're signing.
Not understanding what they were putting their signatureon was an excuse the country heard a lot during the financial crises; inparticular those loan applicants with shaky or absurd credit histories who weregiven adjustable rate mortgages and then feigned ignorance when their ratesincreased exponentially.
There were calls for increased financial literacyprograms and outcries against financial services companies actingunscrupulously and, in some cases, even predatory.
I have no doubt some lenders were far from acting aboveboard, but then, when you have $80,000 in charge-offs and a car repossession,did you really think you would qualify for a 5 percent rate?
I bring this up because last week the Treasury Departmentbegan soliciting comments on a draft version of its plan for financial literacy- National Strategy 2010 - an ambitious overarching program that seeks toprovide a strategic overview, if you will, for the financial literacy andeducation field.
A Treasury-appointed working group has identified a totalof what they have termed "action" areas - policy, education,practice, research and coordination. The group will then be charged withimplementing the strategy on a national scale and how companies andorganizations might be able to integrate it.
On a smaller level, many of the state CPA societies havebeen offering financial literacy programs for a number of years now as hasthe AICPA with its 360 Degrees ofFinancial Literacy.
Both on a macro and national level they seek to instillhouseholds with the basic toolkits required for a basic knowledge of finance,whether it be planning for the future, applying for and understanding the termsof a loan or managing and hopefully, avoiding debt.
At an earlier age than most, I learned the consequencesof not fully understanding what I had signed.
Needless to say there are others whose lessons in thatregard were far more painful than a quick cuff across the head.
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