2009-05-29 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER When was the last time you took your financial pulse? How recently have you examined your budget in order to identity and eliminate unnecessary spending? The current economic downturn has led many consumers to assess their spending habits and recalibrate their financial plans. Consumers who are concerned about their finances and are looking for financial tips and advice from reputable sources can have a hard time navigating through the vast universe of financial information available on the Internet. Fortunately, there are several free online resources established by state and federal governmental agencies designed to educate consumers about how to get into financial shape.

The Financial Literacy and Education Commission established pursuant to the federal Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act has created a one-stop financial literacy website entitled MyMoney.gov (http://www.mymon ey.gov/). This expansive and highly-informative website contains a wealth of educational information on budgeting, using credit wisely, financial planning, investing, and other financial topics. Visitors can also use various financial tools available on the site, including mortgage comparison calculators, retirement planning worksheets, and student loan calculators. The Commission has posted a new subsection of fact sheets on the "Budgeting & Taxes" page under the heading "Managing Your Money in Challenging Times," which contains resources on topics that are particularly relevant in today's economy, such as credit repair, financial security, and stock market fluctuations. The Commission also makes these materials available in printed versions free of charge. You can order a packet containing many of the fact sheets available on the MyMoney. gov website by calling 1-888-My Money. For more financial literacy and education information, including a continuously-updated section on financial scams, you may also want to consider visiting the Federal Trade Commission's Money Matters website at: http:// www. ftc.gov/MoneyMat ters.

The Consumer Protection Board's website has several fact sheets available to consumers looking to improve their finances (http:// www.consumer. state.ny.us/).

In addition to materials intended for adult audiences, the Board recently posted several educational materials suitable for young consumers as part of its "Banking on Our Children" Initiative. The activity sheets and videos created for the Initiative are designed to help children learn about financial planning and responsibility in a fun and interactive way. Teachers, parents, and caregivers can select from an assortment of activity sheets aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of saving and making smart financial choices, including word searches, sentence scrambles, and coloring pages. Children who learn basic financial skills at an early age are more likely to become financially savvy adults.

If you have specific questions about your financial situation, or are looking for professional advice in creating a workable financial plan, you should consider consulting a certified financial planner.

For more help finding a financial planner, you can visit the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. website at www.cfp.net or the Financial Planning Association at www.fpaforfinancialplanning.org/. Both of these organizations offer the ability to search for a planner in your area.

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