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 and Teens
Military & Reserves
Parents & Children
Small Business Owners
National CPA Financial Literacy Commission
Chaired by Gregory J. Anton, CPA, 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 Web Site
The AICPA’s award-wining financial literacy Web site 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.
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
Three 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.