Treasurer hopefuls urge kids to make sense out of dollars

A state program aims to teach Missouri’s youths about financial responsibility.
Wednesday, July 28, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:55 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Candidates for state treasurer worry about Missourians’ financial literacy.

“We have problems with finance because people don’t know how to calculate or make rate comparisons,” said Anita Yeckel, who is running for the Republican nomination for treasurer.

Mark Abel, running for the Democratic nomination, said lack of education is having detrimental effects.

“More college students are getting into credit card debt, and we’re seeing younger bankruptcies,” Abel said. “Young people are not aware of the long-term effects of personal debt.”

The treasurer’s office does have an under-employed program to help prevent money mismanagement. Dollars and Sense is a curriculum for elementary students, which teaches basic banking skills and how to set financial goals.

A collaboration of the Treasurer’s office, the Missouri Council on Economic Education/Economics America, Missouri Bankers Association, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Mississippi River Valley and local banks, Dollars and Sense began in 1996 and had more than 5,500 participants in grades three through five during the 2003-04 school year.

Mark Powell, running for the Democratic nomination, said Dollars and Sense isn’t widely used but is a valuable state program. As treasurer he would like to emphasize to more young people the importance of saving for higher education and retirement.

“We could start as early as the first grade but keep the message simple,” Powell said.

Abel wants to expand Dollars and Sense to include high school and college students and provide information to newly divorced or widowed individuals who have little financial management experience.

Lisa J. Emerson, running unopposed for the Libertarian nomination, said she wants to encourage children to learn how to manage their money but has concerns about a program partnering government schools with private banks.

“I question whether this equates to the government marketing certain banks to children,” Emerson said.

Tom Klein, running for the Republican nomination and founder of Windows on Washington, a banquet and catering facility, said Dollars and Sense needs more statewide publicity.

“It’s a great program, but if nobody knows about it what good is it?” Klein said.

Klein would invite entrepreneurs, in addition to bankers, into classrooms to talk to students about starting and maintaining businesses.

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