Weekly Columns

Financial Literary at Home & the Capitol

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of May 2, 2011

May 02 2011

Remember how exciting it was to put money in our piggy banks and hear the change clinking around? Although we don’t hear those same sounds when we deposit money in the bank, we’re just as excited on payday. It’s important today to practice the saving techniques we learned as children. This is something we can all be better at. Our ability to save and plan our finances is important to our future.

To highlight the need for financial education, we observe April as Financial Literacy month. I believe that Arkansans and all Americans are capable of starting down the path to financial security. Whether we’re in the market to buy a new home, invest in a 401(k) or just balance our checkbook, financial literacy skills will help us make responsible decisions.

The troubles that come when we're not making financially sound decisions can be devastating. As our recent economic crisis stresses highlight, Americans need to have the resources, information and understanding to help us make financial decisions in a complex financial system. Despite the intricacies of this structure, however, financial education was more common in many American schools in the early 1900s than it is today.

Financial literacy teaches us to save and spend responsibly. Data compiled by the U.S. Commerce Department shows in 2005, savings rates dipped to minus 0.5 percent, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression in 1932 and 1933. A negative savings rate means that Americans spent all their disposable income and dipped into past savings or increased their borrowing. This is an alarming trend that we must change.

Fortunately, financial literacy training has increased significantly in recent years.  The same Commerce Department data shows an uptick in Americans taking an interest in preparing for their financial future. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce the personal savings rate rose to 4.6 percent in 2009 up from 2.7 percent in 2008.

This awakening has also emboldened Americans to demand financial responsibility from Washington. The American people want us to get back to the basics and spend within our means. Tough decisions will be made about where to save taxpayer dollars. The reality is we can't continue to spend $3.7 trillion while revenue amounts to $2.2 trillion. The government borrows 42 cents of every dollar it spends. This is unsustainable. In the coming weeks, Congress will take action to address this problem and work to balance our national checkbook.

With our economy in its current state and the national deficit at a record high, financial awareness is crucial for us all, including Washington. Hardworking Arkansas families aren't allowed to overspend without consequences and Washington shouldn't be allowed to either. Let’s continue to hold Washington accountable to the same financially responsible budgets that our financial literacy lessons teach us at home.