Oregon governor declares April Financial Literacy Month

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Perhaps now more than ever is making wise financial decisions more important to Oregonians. Recognizing it is essential for citizens to manage their money wisely, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has declared April 2009 to be Financial Literacy Month.

The national statistics are alarming, with the Federal Reserve reporting in 2008 that Americans carry more than $2 trillion in consumer debt. Worse yet, according to an MSNBC poll, four in ten families don't have even one month's income in savings for emergencies.

"Times are difficult, and the current economic crisis sheds an even brighter light on the importance of budgeting and making sure what you spend isn't more than what you make," said Linda Barkus, chair of the Oregon Society of CPAs Financial Literacy Team. The team of member volunteers promotes financial literacy by placing CPAs in the community to educate Oregonians on basic financial issues. "We want Oregonians to know that simple, small changes — such as cutting back on unnecessary expenses or brown bagging it for lunch — can make big differences in their financial wellbeing."

The Oregon Society of CPAs, in partnership with the American Institute of CPAs and the Ad Council, work in partnership to promote a financial literacy campaign called Feed the Pig. The gist of the campaign is to encourage 25- to 34-year-olds (a group that is vulnerable to debt, but with enough time to start making positive changes) to save money and "get unstuck" by feeding their piggy banks and not spending money on unnecessary items. But the message rings true for anyone.

The face of the Feed the Pig campaign is Benjamin Bankes, a life-size pig character who comes complete with a pink suit. Benjamin even has his own MySpace and Facebook pages, and consumers may follow him on Twitter to receive helpful tips on how to form healthy financial habits. In its educational arsenal, the OSCPA has an 8-foot round helium pig, which volunteers carried through the Starlight parade in Portland, and Eugene Celebration parade in Eugene.

The Governor's proclamation sums up the importance of promoting financial literacy: "Changing negative financial behaviors will result in Oregonians making wise financial decisions and becoming responsible workers, heads of household, investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders."

"We recommend that families start their budgeting process by taking a cold hard look at their monthly debits and credits," said Barkus, a CPA in Portland. "They will likely be amazed at how enlightening this exercise is, and how satisfied they will be just months down the road after putting a budget in place."

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