News Release

New Jersey Department of
Banking and Insurance
Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2004

For Further Information::   Ellen Lovejoy - (609) 292-5064

Department spearheads effort to improve financial literacy
Partnership aims to educate communities

SOUTH AMBOY - The Department of Banking and Insurance today unveiled a new initiative to help consumers of all ages better understand and manage their finances.

The creation of the New Jersey Financial Literacy Awareness Network (NJFLAN) was announced by Banking Director H. R. Tillman and NJFLAN Coordinator Donta' D. Bell at South Amboy Middle/High School's student-run credit union, The Lighthouse.

NJFLAN is an association of public and private organizations working to put much-needed financial educational and resource materials in the hands of adults and children throughout the state.

"New Jersey residents need a financial education solution that coordinates existing financial education initiatives under one umbrella and provides results," Governor James E. McGreevey said. "This public/private partnership establishes New Jersey as a leader in recognizing the importance of financial education. Senior citizen communities, low- and moderate-income neighborhoods and children will surely benefit once they begin to understand their finances and how to manage their money."

"We're offering anyone at any age the tools they need to manage and understand their finances, make sound financial decisions and be financially responsible," said Holly C. Bakke, Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance. "Many organizations offer helpful education, good counseling, and partial solutions, but there was no unified approach and very little coordination of the various initiatives. NJFLAN will fill an important need."

NJFLAN will function as a statewide public/private partnership with community organizations, schools, financial institutions and corporations. NJFLAN will distribute financial education materials, in both English and Spanish, and track the progress of individuals who participate in financial education programs offered by community organizations partnering in the network. Organizations that partner with NJFLAN will be able to provide New Jersey residents with a personalized assessment report indicating areas that may need improvement, and a list of financial education materials and workshops that may be helpful.

The flexibility of the network allows organizations to continue using existing financial literacy curricula of choice, but will expose more organizations to the vast financial education materials available for consumers.

To help implement this network and manage the public distribution of materials, NJFLAN is contracting with a company called impactEXPO, a Newark-based firm that is planning a national rollout after the New Jersey implementation.

Many people do not know how to balance a checkbook and have little insight into the basic principles involved with earning, spending, saving and investing. Instead of learning a valuable lesson from their first consumer credit experience, they will likely establish bad financial management habits that lead to indebtedness and ultimately result in their becoming poor credit risks.

"Governor McGreevey has made it a priority to support reading and writing programs that help improve overall literacy. But the governor also realizes the importance of developing consumers' financial literacy," Banking Director Tillman said.

"Many young people lack basic skills in how to manage their personal financial affairs," said Tillman, who is spearheading the effort. "Basic financial skills should start developing as early as possible in the life of a child.

"What we like about this program is it will put educational and resource materials directly into the hands of children and young adults," Tillman added. "The booklets are written for all age levels, and go a long way in helping to stimulate an interest in learning about financial affairs and how to manage
money without sinking into debt. NJFLAN will raise awareness, expand and track distribution, and measure the effectiveness of financial literacy education resources for New Jersey residents."

NJFLAN is part of a major and comprehensive financial literacy campaign the Department is launching this summer. Throughout the summer and early fall, the Department will be developing an intensive training program that will help community leaders and groups teach their members skills to understand and improve their financial standing and responsibility.

"Financial literacy is an issue that impacts our nation and is a key concern to industry in our state," said Commerce Secretary William D. Watley. "Improving financial literacy for business owners and consumers provides a solid foundation for future economic prosperity. I applaud the partnership between the State of New Jersey and the New Jersey Financial Literacy Network in spearheading this effort."

Also attending the news conference will be NJFLAN Coordinator Donta` D. Bell, South Amboy Superintendent Dr. Patrick Martin, Principal Jose Aviles and Student Branch Adviser Gary Kuhn.

NJFLAN also has launched a Web site, and can be reached at 800-630-0531.

Initial partner sponsors are Independence Community Bank, NovaDebt, PNC Bank, Raritan Bay Federal Credit Union and Union Center National Bank. Several community and industry associations support the network, including the New Jersey Credit Union League, New Jersey Bankers Association, New Jersey League of Community Bankers, New Jersey Coalition of Auto Retailers (NJCAR), Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education.

The Lighthouse is a student-run credit union branch of Raritan Bay Federal Credit Union. It is located within South Amboy Middle/High School. It opened in 1999, and was the first student-run high school credit union in the state.