Financial literacy is the key to realizing life’s dreams

Knowing how to manage money properly is the key to realizing life’s dreams.

Sticking to a budget and paying bills on time leads to good credit, which can help with getting a loan to buy a new home for a growing family. Understanding how student loans work can help pay for a college education, the proper education and training that sets the stage for a long and successful career. Contributing regularly to retirement savings plans ensures the resources needed to enjoy your golden years, whether that means traveling the world or staying closer to home.

But smart financial skills aren’t something we’re born with. They take practice, dedication and discipline. And unfortunately, these are skills that many people never learn and therefore never learn. At the Illinois Bankers Association, we are committed to providing these educational opportunities for everyone, which is why we pause each April to recognize and celebrate Financial Literacy Month.

Established by Congress in 2004, Financial Literacy Month brings together financial institutions, government agencies, nonprofits, and other entities with the goal of expanding the personal finance skills of all Americans through accessible education. Financial literacy is key to building a foundation of skills to effectively manage money by saving, protecting and investing wisely.

Unfortunately, financial literacy is steadily declining in the United States according to a recent study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. In 2018, more than 53% of adults said thinking about their financial situation makes them anxious, while 44% said discussing their finances was stressful. These problems have been severely exasperated by the financial devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The best way to ease these tensions is to take advantage of financial literacy programs that will help build the confidence needed to improve personal and family financial stability, one step at a time. It’s never too late to learn.


Contact your bank and ask what type of financial literacy program they offer. Most offer free educational resources for people of all ages. The federal government also provides many free online resources at

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about good money habits. Far too many children don’t even learn the basics of spending, saving and budgeting. Illinois banks are doing their part to embed financial literacy into education curricula, sponsoring several programs that partner banks with schools to unravel the mystery surrounding financial management.

These include the Stock Market Game, which introduces young people to saving and investing through a simulation of the stock and bond markets. Students can trade and manage their own $100,000 virtual investment portfolio, with top teams being rewarded for their achievements with medals and certificates. The IBA also administers Banzai, an online financial literacy program for all ages and groups, including K-12 schools, community programs, employee onboarding, and families that teaches skills such as budgeting, saving, understanding debt, using the internet safely, and more. with experience-based online games.

Other programs include the FDIC’s Money Smart initiative for people of all ages and the Teach Children to Save program, a free national program sponsored by the American Bankers Association Foundation that organizes volunteer bankers throughout the year to help young people develop a saving habit early in life. .

Now more than ever, raising awareness of these opportunities is critical, especially in underserved communities where expanded access to these resources is most needed. It’s important that we focus on improving financial literacy not just this month, but every day. Dreams depend on it.

• Randy Hultgren is President and CEO of the Illinois Bankers Association.

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