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Financial literacy should not be limited to just one month a year

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Many Americans admit they fall short when it comes to one of the most important life skills: financial literacy. It is a crucial skill that many people, especially adults, were never taught in school or by their parents.

Regardless of generation or income level, adults from all walks of life find themselves struggling to master financial basics such as developing a budget, using credit wisely, learning how to save, understanding banking terms and so much more.

For example, a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association, 2 in 5 U.S. adults gave themselves a C, D or F on their knowledge of personal finance. Further, 56 percent admit they do not have a budget and one-third, or more than 77 million Americans, do not pay all of their bills on time.

Money doesn’t come with instructions. Learning how to manage money is the first step people can take in understanding and achieving their financial goals.

To help, some banks, such as Citizens Bank, created simplified disclosures that are written for the average person to understand. We are driven by the goal of making banking simple, clear and personal.

Last year across our 12-state footprint, we partnered with more than 120 nonprofit groups such as Tri-County HDC Ltd. to bridge the gap between the private and nonprofit sector to deliver financial literacy to consumers and small businesses.

April was National Financial Literacy Month, and because we believe that financial literacy shouldn’t be limited to just one month a year, our commitment is year-round. In 2014, we are expanding Citizens Helping Citizens Manage Money, a program we first launched last year. We are designating $1.5 million in financial literacy grants to community partners and have invited nonprofits to apply for a grant. We have also launched an online managing money educational resource center with information and tools to help consumers be fiscally healthy.

When it comes to money, all of us can be teachers. In our daily lives, all of us use financial advice we learned because someone shared their financial wisdom. We want to share that wisdom, which is why we are inviting the public to tell us about their “money mentor” so we can share it with a broader audience.

Together, we can all be citizens helping citizens manage money, educating adults and children alike, so that so we have the confidence to make informed financial decisions and be fiscally healthy. In doing so, we also ensure a more stable economy in the sectors adults most directly affect by their financial decisions, including not only housing but also consumer spending, saving and retirement planning.

Daniel K. Fitzpatrick is president and CEO of Citizens Bank and RBS Citizens for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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