**FILE* Industrial Bank's Georgia Avenue branch in northwest D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Our nation is still facing a critical time, as our economy is not where we need it to be and families are still facing financial challenges never before imagined. We drive through communities of all income levels and witness personal belongings piled high at the curb’s edge, evidence of yet another family displaced by eviction or foreclosure.

Our nation is facing a financial storm that many may not survive. Many ask, ‘What can be done about income inequality?” Why is it when we focus on the critical aspects of our life, we fail to adequately focus on managing our personal finances?

Evident is the need to mandate the inclusion of financial literacy and empowerment into the educational curriculum beginning at the elementary school level. Children must learn the value of saving. Differentiating needs versus wants, as it relates to budgeting, is also essential to solid money management. Learning to maintain healthy finances should begin with their grade school allowances.

Every child should be required, or at least encouraged, to open a savings account and then taught the fundamentals of saving and budgeting during their primary years. As they approach middle school, children should study strategic investment practices and begin to position their funds for future growth. The high school focus could then shift to understanding the importance of managing credit, thus avoiding the devastation that occurs when credit cards are sent to their college dorms, despite their lack of income.

According to the 2004 Nellie Mae study, the average college senior graduated owing credit card debt in excess of $2864. Over 43% of college students hold an average of 4 credit cards and 65% of them failed a basic financial literacy test.

Many of our children will earn the degrees and other highly regarded credentials, but be labeled unemployable because of failing credit scores. It is imperative that we focus on financial education and empowerment beginning with our youth. All school systems must incorporate a comprehensive financial literacy program into the standard curriculum. Subjects must include: Banking, Saving and Investing, Budgeting, Credit, Future Planning, Identity Theft, and Homeownership.

We must ensure that when faced with future economic stresses, our children will be unaffected by the conditions that are rampant today, assured that their core values will generate better financial decisions. By instilling a solid understanding of financial management, a large population of our youth will realize homeownership and investment rewards at much earlier ages than their parents. They will possess the knowledge and skills to manage their household finances despite external economic conditions. Knowledge is power. Now is the time to empower our children with the information required to sustain a bright and a secure tomorrow.

As always, Industrial Bank stands ready to serve as your financial partner to support you as you look to invest in yourself, invest in your dreams, and invest in your future.

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