Educate, and educate early.

That is our stunningly simple solution to making sure there is no "next" global credit crisis. Two weeks ago, as we kicked off our 12th year of Foolanthropy, The Motley Fool's philanthropic campaign, we made the case that the only true antidote to future crises was financial literacy.

It's become clear that the average American finds him- or herself under a mountain of debt, with too much house, too little savings, and too superficial an understanding about money.

Get out the plastic
That's a problem at the individual level, as well as the societal level. Because the truth is, financial literacy is simply not a priority in our nation.

Sixty-two percent of school-age Americans responding to a 2006 Jump$tart personal finance survey received failing scores. Still, only seven of our 50 states require high school students to take a personal finance course to graduate. Nationwide, less than half of all teachers get support from administrations to use financial curricula.

We are nation not of savers but of borrowers, and our dependency with credit is developed early. According to the Young Americans Center for Financial Education, the number of young adults declaring bankruptcy has increased 96% in 10 years, and by the time college students reach their senior year, 56% carry four or more credit cards, with an average balance of $2,864.

Adjustable-rate mortgage, anyone?
The lack of a basic financial education means that many Americans are ill-equipped and ill-prepared to make sound long-term financial decisions. Even if you are not among them, realize just how interdependent and connected we are when it comes to our financial lives (and financial futures). When one group takes uneducated risks -- like, say, subprime borrowers wanting cheap credit to buy real estate -- it can directly and substantially affect the rest of us.

While increased regulation and government involvement will certainly have some effect in the short term, we believe the only true, sustainable, long-term solution is plain:

Educate, and educate early.

Think about it: We as average Americans and "Main Street" investors have no direct control over Wall Street greed, banking regulations, or lending standards. But if we each educated one young person about credit, about saving and investing, about compound interest … we'd make a big difference at the grassroots level.

Announcing Foolanthropy 2008
That is the aim and mission of this year's Foolanthropy campaign. In October, we kicked off Foolanthropy 2008 by asking our community to vote for one out of four organizations that takes an innovative approach to financial education.

Today, we are proud to announce the winner of that community vote. Foolanthropy 2008 will be supporting, a dynamic nonprofit organization that provides a way to fund specific projects in public schools. Teachers from across the United States post project proposals, and "citizen philanthropists" choose to fund the project that appeals to them.

The partnership between and The Motley Fool will specifically fund projects dedicated to financial and economic education. The teachers are already on board; they simply need the tools.

Get involved today
Several major corporations have taken up the financial literacy fight, from finance-related companies such as JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW), McGraw Hill (NYSE: MHP), and Allstate (NYSE: ALL), to Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) and Ford (NYSE: F).

Come join the fight.

For the next 10 weeks -- today through close of business on Jan. 20, 2009 -- The Motley Fool community at large will rally to make a difference in public schools and eradicate financial illiteracy. In addition to money raised from our community, the Fool will be donating $10,000 toward the cause, and we'll also continue our annual "My $0.02 Cents" campaign, adding $0.02 for every single message posted on any of our discussion boards, as well as for every single CAPS pitch, during the month of December.

Educate, and educate early.

Foolanthropy 2008 is one small step toward making sure every young person in our country enters adulthood armed with a basic financial education. Help us raise money by posting on our discussion boards or making a CAPS pitch during the month of December, or by donating money -- whatever the sum. Join us in taking the steps toward a successful financial future.


JPMorgan Chase is an Income Investor recommendation. Charles Schwab is a Stock Advisor recommendation. McGraw Hill is and Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.