In May 2004, the CPA profession launched a unified financial literacy initiative: 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. The effort brought together the AICPA, state CPA societies and individual CPAs to address a growing public issue: financial illiteracy. The program combines grassroots financial literacy efforts with free resources for the public and tools that CPAs can use at a local level to volunteer to educate Americans of all ages on financial topics. CPAs are deeply concerned about Americans’ high financial illiteracy levels and are working to ensure they have tools and knowledge to weather the current economic crisis.
The initiative sends the message that financial education should be a lifelong endeavor — from encouraging children to save their allowance to helping adults plan for a secure retirement. Program information focuses on what people need at each stage of their lives:
Tweens & Teens
- College Students
- Military & Reserves
Parents & Children
- Home Owners
- Small Business Owners
- In Crisis
National CPA Financial Literacy Commission
Chaired by Ernie Almonte, CPA, CFF, CFE, CGFM, CGMA, the commission is leading the CPA profession in a national effort to advance the financial literacy of Americans. Toward this end, this group works to increase awareness of the importance of financial literacy education, builds liaisons within the financial literacy community, serves as media spokespeople and promotes efforts involving CPAs.
360 Degrees of Financial Literacy Consumer Website
The AICPA’s award-wining financial literacy website is the centerpiece of the campaign, where consumers can find extensive free resources to help them make sound financial decisions. The site is free from all advertising, sales, promotions and branding — a feature that brought recognition in a Newsweek article. The article cited the 360 Web site saying, “360financialliteracy.org: basic financial education from the nation's CPAs. Impartial and solid.”
Feed the Pig
Feed the Pig is a national public service advertising campaign of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and The Advertising Council to encourage Americans ages 25-34 to take control of their personal finances and make savings a part of their daily lives. Complementing traditional communications such as TV, print, radio and billboards, Feed the Pig has a strong online and social media presence, including a mobile website, podcasts, weekly e-mail savings tips and text messages, as well as Facebook and Twitter pages for Benjamin Bankes.
360 Degrees of Taxes
360 Degrees of Taxes is a public service site, designed by CPAs and sponsored by the AICPA, to help consumers understand their taxes. The site provides tax resources, tips, FAQs, checklists and much more. In the Ask-A-CPA section, CPAs answer individuals’ questions.
Total Tax InsightsTM Calculator
Developed by the AICPA, Total Tax Insights is the first tool of its kind to provide taxpayers with a better understanding of the number and variety of taxes they pay and their annual estimated amounts—important information individuals need to understand to best plan ways to enhance their financial well-being. It is customized by state, and for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The new 360 monthly consumer e-newsletter features timely articles and resources on personal financial topics and directs readers to the 360 site for more information. The newsletter includes Ask the Money Dr., the volunteer Personal Financial Specialist resource for answering consumer financial planning topics. To subscribe, visit www.360financialliteracy.org and enter an email address in the Email Subscriptions Box.
State CPA Society Highlights
Six years after launching, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy continues to be highly successful. Across the nation, all fifty state CPA societies are implementing more than 250 grassroots educational programs annually that help Americans address key financial issues through various life stages. They identify community needs, customize 360 Degrees resources and mobilize CPA volunteers. They also take the message to the media and state leaders and legislators to increase awareness of the great national need for financial literacy education.
During tax season, state CPA societies provided free workshops manned by CPAs, where military personnel and their spouses could obtain free tax preparation services.
State societies held seminars for local college and university students to instruct them on the dangers of credit cards, creating a budget, making student loans manageable, and planning a financially secure retirement.
Working with local hospices, state societies offered senior citizens financial guidance as well as free courses teaching them how to avoid financial exploitation by frauds and scams.
Many states provided the general public with financial advice through “Ask a CPA” email programs and call-in hotlines.
360 Degrees of Financial Literacy Successes
- 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy is continually praised for delivering financial literacy education free of sales, promotions or branding. The life stage approach resonates with consumers who need help at specific moments of their lives.
- The 360 effort receives 750 million media impressions annually. This coverage includes TV, radio, print and Web media and largely focuses on opportunities to bring practical money management solutions to a wider American audience.
- The 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, and its extension Feed the Pig™, have won more than sixty national awards recognizing its unique approach and extensive outreach. Awards include the prestigious Summit Award from the American Society of Association Executives, recognizing associations that develop innovative community outreach programs. Other awards include the Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications and the Crystal Award of Excellence from The Communicator Awards.