Editor's Note: This article is part of a popular Q & A format series in which we interview experts and industry professionals that have made significant contributions to the credit card industry.
Minimal effort is needed to see a stumbling economy and millions of consumers in desperate financial straits. Whose fault is it? More importantly, what can we do about it? One filmmaker has an answer, and advocates for financial literary education at all levels whole-heartedly support the film's ambitious efforts.
Secrets of Money is a brand-new documentary based on the book of the same name. Set for release in the spring of 2009, the film's premise is that the lack of financial literacy in our population is a major cause of poor decision-making from consumers to government. Money is considered as taboo a subject as politics, religion, or sex. Yet what topic is more newsworthy and affects citizens as widely at this point in our history?
An adult debt-management educator of many years recently said that the most common remark he received after his classes was, "why don't they teach this in schools?" Fortunately, financial education in public schools has in recent years gotten more attention and funding. But it's still far from adequate.
The executive producer of the movie and author of the book Secrets of Money, Braun Mincher, and film project partner and attorney Kevin E. Houchin, Esq. were recently available for questions.
Your Web site offers the following: "About half of adults (49%) say they are concerned they have not paid enough attention to managing their finances as they should have and 48 percent are concerned they don't know enough about financial planning." Do you know if the current economy is altering this statistic?
"We do not have empirical data relative to how the current economy is changing the percentages, but we have plenty of stories and an intuitive guess that the level of financial literacy has to be improving--based on the amount of media coverage and the "back-pocket" education many Americans are receiving from today's challenges."
The film takes a hard look at personal accountability for personal debt. Does it also cover creditor responsibility? Can you summarize the differences in accountability between debtor and creditor?
"We are not out to vilify or blame anyone. There is enough personal, corporate, and government responsibility to go around. Our goal is to relate the consequences, both good and bad, of one's financial literacy. We'll explore the relative accountability in situational experiences of the persons profiled in the movie, but we will not be generalizing or preaching that any one sector is "at fault" for the large-scale situation. We all have our stories and our reasons for what we do, hopefully we can all learn a bit of what to do and what not to do from the profiles and themes in the movie."
Braun has a Financial Literary Quiz at his site. How does it benefit the consumer to take such a quiz?
"One of the greatest fears is not knowing what you don't know. The benefits to the consumer of taking the quiz are summed up in two areas: ¬confidence in what you know, and identification of areas for improvement and learning."
How do you expect this film to affect our current financial dilemma?
"First of all, we hope to remove the shame that many people feel is preventing them from admitting they don't know all they should, and hopefully to empower them to ask for the help they need. But secondly, we want to give people hope that they can turn their situations around through education, discipline, and by hearing stories of people just like them who have recovered from financial trouble."
Is there anything you would like to add?
"A significant portion of the proceeds from the movie will go toward helping establish financial literacy programs in schools. In addition, the overall goal of both the movie and Braun's book is to challenge high schools and colleges around the United States (and beyond) to require a financial literacy course for graduation."
It makes sense that knowing more about money, spending, and investing would help consumers and those elected to govern them make better decisions. From finding fair deals in credit cards and mortgages, to saving enough for retirement and investing it appropriately, the education payoff for Americans is clear. And checking out Secrets of Money is a good start.