April is Financial Literacy Month; financial fitness programs abound

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Clients are filing away their tax returns, ready to put taxes aside for another year, and accountants are dreaming about the beach, the golf course, or just the recliner. But now, when the client's financial position is in clear focus, is the best time to talk about ways to improve their personal and business financial management and results.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution designating April 2011 as Financial Literacy Month. Recommending or even joining a client in one of the many interesting and not terribly taxing "financial fitness" activities sponsored by accounting organizations can help to strengthen the relationship and keep the conversation going.

Accounting professionals can tailor the many resources available to the public to their clients' needs and interests. The AICPA's 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, inaugurated in May 2004, was initially an effort to bring together the AICPA, state CPA societies, and individual CPAs to support financial literacy education for high school and college students, but it now incorporates the financial decisions people make at every stage of life.

The AICPA's Feed the Pig, which suggests ways to increase saving, is of general interest, while the 360 Widgets - 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, a link to articles on insurance coverage, tax planning, and workplace financial fitness programs, is dedicated to areas where accountants can design programs to assist their clients.

The Texas Society of CPAs (TSCPA) Financial Literacy Month site features resources for the entire family. The Society's "30 Days of Financial Literacy" list helps teach families about financial responsibility. "Discussing Money with your Family",Hard Economic Times", and "Preparing for a Layoff" are some of the personal finance videos available to the public on the TSCPA site.

The Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA) sponsors online financial literacy workshops designed for all members of the general public on their Financial Fitness Workshops site and offers free seminars on topics like budgeting, saving, credit, retirement planning, estate planning and more, led by Virginia certified public accountants.

Financial Literacy month might also be a good time to remind clients of credit card changes that have come into effect in the past twelve months as the result of the Credit Card Act of 2009. The law prohibits banks from issuing credit cards to individual under 21, and parents who are sending their children to college for the first time might want to look at prepaid debit card options. Clients should to pay close attention to any changes in fees and rewards programs on credit cards and in regular bank accounts as the banking industry adjusts to new regulations called for by the Dodd-Frank Act.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution (S.Res. 121) designating April 2011 as Financial Literacy Month. U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) and 20 other senators sponsored the measure to highlight the need to promote financial literacy in our homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. Governors in Hawaii, Washington, and many other states have proclaimed April as Financial Literacy Month as a way of promoting the many educational programs in communities around their states. Accountants can connect with clients by participating in these programs as individuals and through volunteering in programs organized by their state societies.

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