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The People's Money

Millions of readers trust consumer-rights advocate and financial expert Robert K. Heady to boost their confidence and understanding of pocketbook issues. Heady gives readers the straight story on credit cards, savings, stocks and bonds, bankruptcy, interest rates and campaign finance reform in a conversational tone that really draws readers in. In addition to financial guidance, he helps readers protect themselves from crucial Internet issues like fraudulent businesses, identity theft and invasion-of-privacy.

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For release 05/30/02


By Robert K. Heady

Tribune Media Services

The biggest void in making America economically stronger? No doubt about it. Children aren't being taught enough about how money works.

That especially includes the nitty-gritty of personal finance. This means credit cards, mortgages and other loans such as for autos and college tuition, and how money grows when it earns interest in a savings account. Problem is, most of the nation's schools and colleges have wimped out when it comes to helping our kids gain this knowledge.

"The end result," says Muriel Siebert, former superintendent of banks for the state of New York, and head of the national discount brokerage company bearing her name, "is that when a child gets out of high school, he or she knows very little about the real money world." Plus, by the time kids graduate from college, they're in debt to the tune of $18,000 per student on average.

In short, children's financial literacy is generally low, and it's beginning to hurt them big time. In its last study conducted among high school seniors, the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy found their literacy level had actually declined over the previous three years.

The (begin italic) real (end italic) causes of all this? Simple, according to Paul S. Richard, executive director of the renowned Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), a non-profit based in San Diego, Calif.:

"The first reason is societal. Schools still believe that it's the parents' responsibility to instill money values in their children. But that can't happen unless the parents themselves know how to manage money. For example, if they overspend and only live paycheck-to-paycheck, and run to an ATM four or five times a week and don't explain to their kids why, they'll do the same thing.

"Second, schools are reluctant to add to their curriculum unless they can figure what to take out to make room for the money subject. Third, there aren't enough qualified teachers to teach about personal finance."

Siebert, the ex-New York banking boss, made a giant step in that direction two years ago after she discovered that people who could least afford it were the ones being ripped off the most by banks. Working with women's organizations, she pioneered a teaching program in New York City schools, with special help from the Federal Reserve in training teachers about personal finance. The curriculum is now up to 20 topics including credit cards and mortgages, and the goal is to expand the program statewide next year and then nationwide.

All told today, 40 states are said to be discussing some kind of proposed teaching program. In January, California passed a new law requiring that credit card and debt education and counseling become a regular part of campus orientation for new students.

Until now, said ICFE's Richard, the problems have been "no uniformity" in teaching about money, only "sporadic information" available on the Internet, and a "natural lag" in teacher training. "In fact, more than 40 percent of people age 15 or older are making household decisions, with 30 cents of every dollar going for household and grocery items. Yet, most children have never learned how to use coupons to save money.

"Kids need to know that spending is the key to everything. There are two kinds of spenders: Those who spend more than they have, and those who pay too much for what they buy. The right perspective is that personal finance is the horse that drives the economy, which is the cart - not the other way around."

The bottom line is that some things are being done, but not enough. The responsibility for your child's financial knowledge is in your court.

Go to ICFE's great Web site at, and click onto "Children and Money." The site covers everything your kids should know about personal finance, and then some. ICFE also offers excellent videos such as "Piggy Banks to Money Markets," priced at $19.95. Get it via the Web site, by calling (619) 239-1401, or by writing to ICFE at P.O. Box WWW-34070, San Diego, CA 92163-4070.

It's worth 20 bucks any day to get your child educated in the right direction.

- - - -

Robert K. Heady is the founding publisher of Bank Rate Monitor. He invites reader mail on consumer money problems and solutions but cannot respond personally to all inquiries. Send e-mail to, or write to P.O. Box 14875, North Palm Beach, FL 33408.

RateGram's Best Credit Card Deals

For Release 05/30/02

These are nationally available credit cards offering the lowest interest rates on purchases as of May 29. If you typically pay off the entire balance monthly, look for a zero-annual fee card that allows the most interest-free or grace days. Some cards listed below feature special introductory or "teaser" rates for a specified time before regular rates apply. Additional fees and residency restrictions may apply. Rates are subject to change. Rebates and other benefits may be available.

National avg. APRs as of May 29 Standard Gold Platinum

13.60 12.91 12.26

Low APR Standard Cards

Reg. Ann. Grace Intro

Card Name Phone APR(%) Fee($)Days APR/mos

1 Pulaski Bank Card (800)980-2265 5.50 V 35 25 na

2 Arkansas National Bank Card (888)226-5262 7.92 50 25 na

3 Simmons First Card (800)272-2102 8.95 35 25 na

4 Washington Mutual Visa Premier Card (800)649-4090 9.24 V 0 25 na

5 AmSouth Bank Classic Credit Card (800)267-6884 9.50 V 0 26 2.90/3

6 The GM Card (800)846-2273 9.99 V 0 25 na

7 First IB CONNECT Select Card (888)873-3424 10.00 V 0 0 t na

8 AmTrust Bank Visa Classic (888)696-4444 10.25 V 22 25 6.90/6

9 Ohio Savings Bank Visa Classic (800)696-2222 10.25 V 22 25 6.90/6

10 U.S. Bank Visa Classic Card (800)285-8585 10.74 V 20 25 5.90/6

11 Centura Low-Rate Classic Card (800)236-8872 11.24 V 18 25 na

12 Wells Fargo Classic Visa (800)869-3557 11.70 V 0 25 3.90/6

13 Riggs Bank Classic Visa Card (800)346-5538 11.74 V 0 20 2.90/6

14 Fifth Third Select MasterCard (800)275-4858 11.74 V 0 25 2.90/4

15 First IB CONNECT Classic Card (888)873-3424 12.00 V 0 25 na

16 Centura No-Fee Classic Card (800)236-8872 12.24 V 0 25 na

17 Washington Mutual Visa Preferred Ca (800)649-4090 12.24 V 0 25 na

18 Fleet Fusion Visa (800)403-3035 12.99 V 0 20 na

19 Central Carolina Bk Preferred Card (800)932-2775 12.99 0 25 na

20 Comerica Bank Preferred Card (800)932-2775 12.99 0 25 na

Low APR Premium Cards

Note: Minimum income requirements apply to Gold, Platinum and Titanium cards, which offer higher credit limits to qualified customers.

Reg. Ann. Grace Intro

Card Name Phone APR(%) Fee($)Days APR/mos

1 Huntington Prime Rate Pltnm Card (877)932-2265 4.75 V 75 22 na

2 Pulaski Bank Gold Card (800)980-2265 5.50 V 50 25 na

3 Key Platinum Card (800)444-4539 7.74 V 0 25 5.90/6

4 Fifth Third Bank Gold MasterCard (800)275-4858 8.74 V 0 25 2.90/4

5 Fifth Third Platinum MasterCard (800)275-4858 8.74 V 0 25 2.90/4

6 U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card (800)285-8585 8.74 V 40 25 5.90/6

7 Capital One No-Hassle Pltnm Card (800)933-5182 8.90 0 25 na

8 Simmons First Visa Gold (800)272-2102 8.95 35 25 na

9 Bk of America Fixed APR Gold Card (800)654-1899 9.90 0 20 na

10 Bk of America Fixed APR Pltnm Card (800)654-1899 9.90 0 20 na

11 GetSmart Visa Platinum (888)237-4837 9.99 V 0 25 1.90/3

12 Providian Smart Visa Premium (800)647-8641 9.99 V 0 25 1.90/3

13 Chase Gold Card (800)325-5300 10.24 V 0 22 2.99/6

14 Chase Platinum (800)438-3535 10.24 V 0 22 2.99/6

15 Centura Low-Rate Gold Card (800)236-8872 10.24 V 18 25 na

16 AmTrust Bank Visa Platinum (888)696-4444 10.25 V 22 25 4.90/4

17 Ohio Savings Bank Visa Platinum (800)696-2222 10.25 V 22 25 4.90/4

18 Simmons First Visa Gold Select (800)272-2102 10.95 0 25 na

19 Centura No-Fee Gold Card (800)236-8872 11.24 V 0 25 na

20 Wells Fargo Platinum Card (800)869-3557 11.70 V 0 25 3.90/6

V - variable interest rate, usually based on an index

na - not available

t - interest-free days from date of transaction; otherwise from date of billing

(i)- apply by Internet only

Source: Informa Research Services, Inc., 26565 Agoura Road, Suite #300, Calabasas, CA, 91302; For more financial information, visit


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