In the late 1950s, during the Eisenhower Administration, the President’s Council on Youth Physical Fitness was founded to promote healthier lifestyles. Physical fitness was clearly recognized as having an important influence on quality of life.
These initiatives in schools over the last half century have increased health awareness. People have the education and information needed to make informed decisions regarding what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about financial fitness.
In fact, according to a 2015 study completed by the World Bank, Gallup and George Washington University, 43 percent of Americans are unable to pass a basic financial literacy test.
According to authors of the study, Leora Klapper, Annamaria Lusardi and Peter von Oudheusden, “Financial ignorance carries significant costs. Consumers who fail to understand the concept of interest compounding spend more on transaction fees, run up bigger debts, and incur higher interest rates on loans. They also end up borrowing more and saving less money.”
The impact of higher borrowing costs and less savings are highlighted in a 2016 study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation. CFSI states that:
• 76 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck
• 50 percent of Americans cannot raise $2,000 in 30 days;
• 37 percent of Americans have credit card debt greater than their savings;
• 60 percent of Americans describe their financial health as “unhealthy”;
• Income is not a factor. Of those describing themselves as financially “unhealthy,” one-third make more than $60,000 per year. For those describing themselves as financially “healthy,” one-third make less than $60,000 per year.
Kentucky-specific financial literacy performance may be even worse than the CFSI national data. According to a recent study by WalletHub, Kentucky ranks 48th nationwide in financial literacy.
Fortunately, there are many resources for children and adults to improve financial fitness.
Some of those include:
• Online Resources. JumpStart Coalition (www.jumpstart.org) has excellent financial education tools on its website;
• Books. Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” has helped millions of people. There are other great, simple-to-read books that can help reinforce the value of compound interest such as “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko and “The Wealthy Barber” by David Chilton.
• Credit Unions. Every credit union in Kentucky invests in financial fitness. Fort Knox Federal Credit Union members can work with member service representatives at any of the 17 branch locations to learn how to improve credit and save money. Plus, Fort Knox Federal Credit Union’s Financial Fitness Center at fortknoxfcu.org provides 20 short videos on financial fitness.
More can be done. In fact, there are several initiatives today that can make a difference in financial fitness for Kentuckians including:
• Legislation. Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia require a semester of financial literacy in high schools. Kentucky could be included on the list of states that include financial literacy in high schools. State Sen. Dennis Parrett’s financial literacy bill, pre-filed for the 2018 legislative session, would create a requirement for a half credit of financial education in high school.
• State Programs. Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball is an advocate for financial literacy. In April 2017, she launched an education campaign to promote financial literacy and she provides periodic tips on financial fitness via social media. She speaks publicly about her goal to create better financial literacy options for children and adults in Kentucky. Great financial education programs have been put in place by a community foundation in Mississippi and by a group of credit unions in Wisconsin. Can the same be done in Kentucky?
“Financial literacy is a form of financial freedom,” Ball said.
There are great resources to help Kentuckians make better financial decisions and improve their financial freedom.
I encourage you to use these resources and share them with your friends and family members. Together, we can improve Kentuckians’ financial fitness.