April is National Financial Literacy Month, a designation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to raise public awareness about the importance of financial education. Everyday Americans make financial decisions that affect our long term financial stability. According to supporters of the resolution, financial literacy is an issue that demands our attention because many Americans are not adequately managing their finances for education, healthcare and retirement. According to national surveys, the savings rate is low, while Americans owe over $850 billion in credit card debt. To complicate matters, while the mortgage industry is slowly coming out of a crisis, foreclosures are still high. All of these issues increase the need for consumer knowledge of money and finance. Education is the key to help move Americans toward improved spending and saving habits and raise the level of money invested in retirement plans. And, it is never too early to encourage long-term savings for future goals. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, surveys show as few as ten hours of education can influence the practices and financial knowledge of young people. Some good news on the educational front, during this legislative session, a bill passed requiring a course in financial education for all high school students in the state of Florida. This is a major step in the right direction, however, financial education should be an integral component of the entire educational system, Pre-K through the 12th grade. Financial literacy needs to start early in a child’s life. Early decisions about how to spend an allowance gives a child practice in decision making skills. Parents can help kids practice the concepts of planned spending and saving for a future purchase, a simple piggy bank can be the first step. All consumers, regardless of age, need to understand the decision making process of spending, saving and wise use of credit. As consumers, adults need to sharpen their shopping skills and learn all they can about managing money and making sound financial decisions. To learn more about managing money, contact the Madison County Extension office. We have consumer information to help you get organized and headed down the path of financial stability. The University of Florida Extension/Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.