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Mastering personal money management is a great accomplishment and vital life skill for all consumers.  Do you stick to a budget or sometimes fall short on monthly expenses?  If you identify with the latter, this month is a perfect time to start balancing your checkbook and finances.  April is National Financial Literacy Month, a time dedicated to increasing American’s financial wellness. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) supports this nationwide initiative to empower consumers through financial education.

What started as a single day to promote youth financial literacy over twenty years ago evolved into a month-long financial education awareness campaign every April officially recognized by the U.S. Senate. National Financial Literacy Month encourages individuals to reevaluate their finances while also raising awareness about youth financial education. According to Bank of America, less than 20% of Americans between the age of 18 and 26 are optimistic about their financial future. 

In recognition of National Financial Literacy Month OCABR compiled a list of tips you can implement to work towards economic wellness.

  • Evaluate your spending and identify areas of improvement. Are there areas where you are spending more than you can afford?
  • Figure out your financial goals, no matter how small. Whether it is building a savings account or cutting down on debt, setting a goal is a good starting point to hold yourself accountable.
  • Start keeping track of your spending. Write down where you spend the most and areas you are saving.
  • Set SMART financial goals when creating a budget. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Use this acronym when drafting your financial goals.
  • Pay yourself first. Before handling bills or funding recreational activities, set aside an amount to deposit into a savings account.  This trick helps prioritize your future financial well-being.

It’s important to remember that financial education is not only relevant this month.  All year OCABR and our regulatory agencies, especially the Division of Banks (DOB), encourage and support consumer’s financial fitness. The DOB partners with the Treasurer’s Office of Economic Empowerment to administer financial literacy grant opportunities across the Commonwealth. 

The first grant program, Operation Money Wise, supports Veteran-serving non-profit organizations who are providing programs to increase the personal finance knowledge within the Military, Veteran, Family, and Survivor Community.  To date, more than 6,600 members of the military community have benefited from the program, with over $160,000 in funding distributed since the partnership began in 2016.

Finally, the Financial Education Innovation Fund grant program, supports high school credit for life fairs. These workshops give students a better understanding of financial topics like budgeting, maintaining a savings account, and managing credit scores. Students simulate the life a 25-year-old professional and are tasked with maintaining their lifestyle and living within their means. Since 2015, over 56,000 Massachusetts students have attended “Credit For Life” fairs.

In addition to providing funding for this critical mission, the Division of Banks and the Office of Consumer Affairs offer financial literacy resources for Massachusetts residents.  Visit OCABR’s website to learn more about your rights as a consumer including details about credit reports and keeping your finances safe online.  For more information about banking, lending, or other financial related topics, head over to the DOB’s Consumer Money Matters online tool to help you make informed financial decisions.

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