News Release

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

For Immediate Release:  July 21, 2004

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

Better Preparing Consumers for the Financial Marketplace
Department targets financial literacy

CAMDEN - The Department of Banking and Insurance today launched a major initiative to arm consumers with the tools they need to understand and improve their credit and finances. The new program, a credit awareness train-the-trainer program, will give individuals the skills they need to operate successfully in the changing financial marketplace.

Credit permeates every aspect of American life and has become an indicator of a person's risk and reliability. Unfavorable credit can keep people from getting shelter, transportation or even a job. It often affects what they pay for many items and services, and, in more than 40 states, that includes insurance.

"One of the highest priorities of this administration is to help improve literacy, " said Governor James E. McGreevey. "Financial literacy is a critical component if we're to help New Jersey residents learn how to manage their money and succeed."

The train-the-trainer program will provide community leaders throughout the state with the ability to offer basic financial management training to individuals in their communities. In keeping with this community-centered approach to financial literacy, the program was launched at the Department's Camden Consumer Center.

"Program participants will leave today's workshop able to teach their communities basic credit management skills," said Commissioner Holly C. Bakke. "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. Today, we embark on a mission to change that."

Today's group of "trainers" consisted of approximately 35 leaders representing churches, community groups, nonprofit organizations and public agencies - all of which see the need for such instruction and responded enthusiastically to the Department's decision to provide it. In fact, the response to the program has been so overwhelming that the Department has decided to sponsor several more workshops, geographically spread throughout the state, within the next few months.

The workshops are part of the Department's intensive, statewide, multi-pronged effort to bring together all levels of government and public and private agencies to help improve the state's financial literacy. Other recent initiatives include launching NJFLAN and the Consumer Credit Bill of Rights. NJFLAN is an association of public and private organizations working to put much-needed financial educational and resource materials, in English and Spanish, in the hands of adults and children throughout the state. The Consumer Credit Bill of Rights, launched earlier this month, makes New Jersey the first state to provide consumers with a list of rights they have with respect to the use of their credit information.

"This program, coupled with our other financial literacy efforts, will allow us to reach out to children, parents, senior citizens, and everybody in between," Commissioner Bakke said. "Financial literacy, like general literacy, truly is a cradle-to-grave issue."

In addition to leaders of many nonprofit groups, the participants of today's session also included members of the Department's education and consumer outreach divisions, who will be traveling the state to share the information with hundreds of people in many different types of forums.

Information booths will be set up at festivals, motor vehicle offices, and several other events, including college orientations - where unaware college students are often besieged with credit card offers and make choices that hurt them before they even embark on their professional lives.

"Today is a very important step in our ambitious and evolving efforts to help New Jersey's consumers help themselves," Commissioner Bakke said.

The train-the-trainer workshop uses curriculum developed by New Jersey Citizen Action, the state's largest independent citizens' watchdog group whose services include financial education counseling.