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Financial literacy series for Gratitude House clients offers common-sense tips

Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

April is so many things to so many people. This fourth month of every year brings with it all the glories of spring along with a host of other eye-popping awareness-type organizational recognitions.

For instance, April is Alcohol Awareness Month, Donate Life Month, Stress Awareness Month, National Poetry Month, Gardening Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, Immigration Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, National Grilled Cheese Month and more. And, of course, it's the month your taxes are due.

But perhaps more importantly, April is also National Financial Awareness Month.

Earlier this month, in a proclamation designating April as the month to recognize the importance of financial literacy, President Barack Obama said, "In recent years, our nations' financial system has grown increasingly complex. This has left too many Americans behind, unable to build a secure financial future. ... During National Financial Literacy Month, we recommit to teaching ourselves and our children about the basics of financial education. ... Our nations' future prosperity depends on the financial security of all Americans."

While the proclamation may be fresh, financial literacy has been on the radar screen for decades for the individuals, educators and investment firms that have recognized the huge deficiency that exists in educating ourselves and our children to the importance of money management. Mutual fund companies, for example, have been actively offering educational materials about investing to their existing and prospective investors since the early 1980s. Individual states have jumped on the bandwagon too, and the Internet is chock-full of way too many Web sites to count -- or visit -- offering financial educational materials.

So while it didn't take a presidential proclamation to bring the importance of learning about money and its management to the fore, the current state of America's pocketbook and all things related to it may help everyone focus on this vitally important cause. Particularly when considering some facts:

• A Capital One back-to-school survey found only 14 percent of teens have taken a personal finance class in school and that 69 percent say that what they know about money management they've learned from their parents.

• A survey by The Hartford Financial Services Group showed 55 percent of parents with children ages 16-24 were concerned over their children's ability to become financially independent without monetary assistance from them. Forty-four percent of the parents interviewed admitted to needing more guidance on how to best teach personal finance skills to their children.

• A National Foundation for Credit Counseling Inc. and MSN Money survey revealed that more than 40 percent of Generation Y (ages 18-29) don't pay their bills on time.

And from a Charles Schwab "Parents & Money" survey, 71 percent of parents agreed that the best way for teens to learn about money is from guided hands-on experience.

To that last point, enter The Gratitude House and Carl Domino Inc. The Gratitude House in West Palm Beach has been offering individualized treatment to women who have experienced abuse and addictions since 1968. Carl Domino Inc. has been in the investment management and wealth adviser business in Palm Beach since 2004.

Part of The Gratitude House's mission is to return women who have gone through their recovery program "to society as self-sufficient, productive citizens.' A tall order, particularly in these tough economic times.

But as in all things challenging, help often appears.

When Michael J. Dixon, director of planning and wealth management at Carl Domino Inc. formed a women's financial services division at the firm, among other things, he was interested in working with women in transition.

"I wanted to find an organization that just took care of women and one in which we could apply our areas of expertise to them."

This year he and members from his staff presented a five-week financial literacy workshop, "360 Degrees of Financial Literacy," to the women of The Gratitude House. The one-hour sessions began in March and concluded April 6. Covered in the program were practical financial information such as how to calculate discounts when shopping, how to write checks and keep a check register, budgeting tips, resume writing and employment interview suggestions, including what questions can and cannot be asked during an interview. The final session was about ways to enhance one's self-esteem given by life coach Leah Mills.


There's no shortage of websites offering financial literacy education and direction. If you'd like to learn more and don't want to weed through page-upon-page from a Google search, why not begin with the information offered by the Federal Trade Commission.

From that website: "There's no time like the present to learn proven money-management skills," said David C. Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Financial Literacy Month is an ideal time to learn - or teach others - the importance of consumers' rights, and the best way to file a complaint if something goes wrong."

Visit ftc.gov/moneymatters and you'll be introduced to a variety of tips and videos covering subjects from credit repair, to job hunting, job scams, managing mortgage payments and more.

At ftc.gov/freereports you'll find credit card info.

And ftc.gov/youarehere is a terrific spot for kids and educators. It offers well-presented information about advertising, competition and how to protect your privacy, all presented in a cartoon format.

To read more articles, please visit the column archive.

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