The Need for Greater Financial Literacy

These days, feelings of financially-related frustration are rampant among a large number of Americans. From seniors unable to retire because of the havoc wreaked on the stock market by the recession, to the unemployed and underemployed hunting for work in an anemic job market, to students struggling to manage massive amounts of student loan and credit card debt, economic woes are being felt by a vast cross-section of society.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a manifestation of some of these frustrations. Entering into its fourth consecutive week with satellite protests popping up in various cities throughout the country and around the world, Occupy Wall Street participants are responding to the summons of a “not-for-profit, anti-consumerist, pro-environment organisation.”

Adbusters posted in a blog on July 13: “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months.”

As New York Times blogger Clyde Haberman so eloquently phrased it, those involved in the OWS movement in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and elsewhere, “are denouncing the recklessness of the financial titans who brought the economy to its knees and who continue to thrive unrepentantly.”

Some of the most impassioned of these would-be revolutionaries are students. With few job prospects available to recent graduates, the burden of debt many must assume in exchange for an education becomes even heavier.

On Sunday, October 16, at 6:00 p.m., just one day before the one-month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a free concert event called Music for Change will take place at the West Village venue Sullivan Hall. The student organisers of Music for Change hope to raise awareness of the need for greater financial literacy among their peers with a fun evening of music, song, and personal finance tips. The event is a free student education curriculum program that provides on-line interactive coursework through participating college and university web sites.

Featured performers include Ellina Graypel, Goldenchild & The Chosen, Daso, (i am) isis, Judah Tribe, and VJ Chris Landry. All of the musicians participating in Music for Change were drawn to the cause as a direct result of their own experiences with debt.

“Students have been hard hit by rising tuition costs and the government’s ever-tightening of its belt on contributions towards education; students are increasingly feeling the squeeze. Like their predecessors of the ’60s, they’re using music as a form of expressing their dissatisfaction,” said Niki Rubin, spokesperson for the SCCE.

Many regions feel a strong need to teach young people ways to be financially responsible. On the island of Guam, October 20th has been designated “Get Smart About Credit Day.” organised by the Bank of Guam, bankers will make classroom presentations educating high school seniors about managing credit and debt.

According to Bank of Guam president and board chairwoman Lou Leon Guerrero, “It is vital that young adults learn about the responsible use of credit and that such decisions have far-reaching consequences. Just like a family, a company and even the government, consumers must be aware of all the costs of credit, including how your future may be challenged by using too much debt now,” she said to guampdn.com.

If people are taught how to use a credit card properly, they have a better opportunity to avoid amassing an exorbitant amount of debt. It’s a tough challenge in today’s society, which “promotes a culture of indebtedness,” according to Brenda Shanahan, a banker turned social worker who lectures at Canada’s McGill University in Canada.

Often, having a credit card is a “necessary evil,” Shanahan told The Vancouver Sun.  “You’re a non-person in the electronic marketplace if you don’t have a credit card,” she said.

Shanahan believes that many parents are not in a position to teach their children to be financially responsible because they do not employ a wise use of credit themselves.

The Music for Change student concert rally for access to credit education seems to be appearing at just the right moment to help the urgent needs of young people in the U.S.

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