05/22/2014 11:57 am ET Updated Jul 22, 2014

Together, We Can Make a Difference in Financial Literacy

Dear Readers,

Every week I attempt to answer your questions so that you can make the smartest financial decisions for yourself and your family. This week, though, I'd like to depart from the usual format to speak to you more broadly about -- and to enlist your help in -- the drive towards financial literacy.

And here's why. As a society, most of us -- and not just the young -- are suffering from a severe lack of financial literacy. Young adults, middle-aged adults, older adults, men and women across the spectrum of education and wealth are all included. And unfortunately, the stakes have never been higher: No one is going to step in and take care of us. No one else will pay our overdue credit card bills, force us to save for retirement, or keep us from living beyond our means. We've got to do those things for ourselves.

But the good news is that every single one of you can be part of the solution, starting with straight-forward steps:

  • Start at home. Educate yourself and begin an honest discussion about money within your family. Know where your money is going and think carefully about your tradeoffs. Save for the future and be a good role model for your children. If you're not sure about which insurance policy is best or when to file for Social Security, take the time to find the right answer. Don't hesitate to seek professional help.
  • Find out if your children's schools include financial education in their curricula. If not, speak up. If you're qualified, offer to conduct a financial workshop. Or find experts who can.
  • If you own a business, offer financial education to your employees as part of your benefits plan. You can call in the services of a financial institution that provides educational materials and guidance. After all, financial security makes for more productive employees.
  • Encourage your elected officials to promote financial education wherever possible -- in our schools, our workplaces, and through government programs.

At Schwab, we are wrapping up our annual Schwab Volunteer Week -- a nationwide effort in which nearly 4,000 employees team up on service projects to benefit nonprofit organizations and improve the financial well-being of their communities.

No doubt the drive to financial literacy is bigger than any one of us alone. But if today's young adults or tomorrow's retirees are going to have a fighting chance at a secure and fulfilling future, we've all got to act -- and now. We can all make a difference.

Looking for answers to your retirement questions? Check out Carrie's new book, "The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions."

Read more at You can e-mail Carrie at This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager. The Charles Schwab Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, private foundation that is not part of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. ("Schwab") or its parent company, The Charles Schwab Corporation.


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