Saving is fundamental

Groups teach teens the value of financial responsibility

Remember receiving your allowance with a stern warning to save it rather than blow it all at the candy store? Well, both private and public groups are trying to return us to those pre-credit card days when cash was king and debt was just another word for gratitude. They suggest the best time to reach people with this message is before they enter the job market.

As part of its 1999 Time to Save education campaign, Merrill Lynch polled 500 boys and girls, ages 12 to 17, about how they obtain, save and invest their money. The survey found that 70% of them currently have a savings account (up from 65% in 1998) and 11% own stock (vs. 7% last year). Nearly one-third of the teens have sought financial advice; 87% of them consulted parents or relatives. Fifty-six percent (vs. 44% in 1998) of the students had taken a class on saving or investing. Despite the fact that teens who take such classes are more likely to manage their money wisely, the number of states offering personal finance education to high school students dwindled from 14 in 1989 to only seven last year.

Organizations such as the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy (www.jumpstart coalition.org), the National Council on Economic Education (www.nationalcouncil.org) and even the Black Enterprise for Teens newsletter (blackenterprise.com) are doing their best to reverse the trend toward financial illiteracy.

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