Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama new financial literacy push: John Rogers helms advisory panel


WASHINGTON -- In the wake of the nations's economic meltdown, financial literacy and financial consumer protections have taken on an urgency in the Obama White House. On Tuesday, Obama's new Advisory Council on Financial Literacy was launched at a meeting chaired by Jonathan Rogers with fellow Chicagoans, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Public Engagement chief Tina Tchen at the table.

"There was a consensus that we work with younger people and get people exposed to all the issues around financial literacy at younger ages," Rogers told me after the meeting at the Treasury Department. "Not only does it make them better investors and savers when they get older, but their parents and their aunts and their uncles can learn from the young people."

Rogers has long been involved in financial literacy issues, working with disadvantaged youth at the Chicago Public School he founded, the Ariel Community Academy in Kenwood. The Rogers panel replaces a commission created by President Bush in 2008.

As the U.S. regulatory system was failing, people got themselves into jams by agreeing to expensive loans that set them up for financial failure. The Obama White House pushed legislation that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, being established by White House advisor Elizabeth Warren.

As part of a new national strategy on financial literacy--unveiled Tuesday by the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, the Rogers and Warren panels will have overlapping missions.

While a push for financial literacy is on Rogers agenda--knowing the basics of earning, spending, saving, investing and borrowing--part of Warren's job, Tchen noted is to make sure the "level they need to be literate is not being a lawyer and a financial planner."


Sometimes the lack of financial literacy is a function of the complexity of financial information itself. The term "financial literacy" points to only one side of the equation: literacy is not just the ability of the reader/user to understand the information and be able to function well within financial contexts. It also is the need for those who create financial information to do so in a manner that makes it easy for readers/users to understand and use the information. Both the user of financial information and the creator of financial information are responsible for financial literacy.

We should remember that financial literacy extends into the retirement planning world.

Currently, we as advisors to a particular plan, are precluded by 'law' from helping plan participants become fiancially literate in terms of their investment choices.

Maybe, financial literact should extend to them as well.

John Rodgers is an excellent choice for this position. His passion for financial literacy is unmatched.

I think that financial literacy is very important because as we emerge into adulthood we need at the very minimum basic skills about the inner workings of our monetary system. I also believe it's imperative that we involve public/private entities so the very best resources are marshalled toward acheiving the goal of a more informed consumer. I think that companies should provide quarterly volunteer programs to their employees so that they make choices with their retirement plan choices. I once asked a lady why she chose a particular Mutual Fund and her answer was it sounded good. That type of apathy can lead to disasterous consequences...

@Colin Fitzpatrick Smith 7:05 am

I'm curious how you are "precluded by law" from helping plan participants become financially literate."

Would you mind expounding?


Financial literacy, true financial literacy, is the ability to see the implications of ones decisions, weigh ones values, and then commit to a direction with informed expectation of the desired result.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on December 1, 2010 7:05 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Dec. 1, 2010. New D.C. mayor lunch was the previous entry in this blog.

Greta Van Susteren's "On the Record" Mark Kirk interview is the next entry in this blog.

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