Financial Literacy Summit Addresses Gaps in Understanding

Chicago (MainStreet) —On Wednesday morning some of the greatest economic minds in the world met to discuss the technical-sounding topic of financial literacy among women. They met at the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank in a conference that drew panelists from countries as far flung as Vietnam, Egypt and Australia. They came to a single, unanimous conclusion: we all have a problem, and we’re not doing nearly enough about it.

As panelist Adina Chelminsky, a journalist from Mexico City, explained: “To be financially literate you don’t need to understand what is a compound interest rate, you just need to understand that you need to save some part of what you’re making… It’s just about common sense and judgment.”

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Yet as the conference went on, it became increasingly clear that all of the attending experts, and the cultures they represented, agree we are facing a crisis. People don’t know how to manage their money, and they’re not passing good habits on to their children. The result is creating a slow rolling problem, families stuck in cycles of debt and poverty that they could break out of with better understanding of how and where their money goes.

“Financial literacy remains a vital public policy issue,” said Jason Alderman of Visa, cosponsor of the event. “The remarkable speakers here today are further proof that the governments of the world realize that a key pillar in the financial health of their nations, and of the global economy, is a population that is financially included and literate.”

As the panelists began to speak, and sometimes debate, the cracks in the system began to become clear.

“In the past few years, we have been working through the worst financial crisis we have known since the Great Depression,” said Richard Cordray, Director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau we hear every day from people who lament the choices they made, often expressing anguished regret that they did not know more about the risks involved in financial decisions.”