In times like these, a little entrepreneurial creativity can go a long way. Just ask Rancho Bernardo High School teacher Tom Farber.
Mr. Farber, facing a budgetary shortfall at the San Diego school, resorted to selling advertisements on his students' exams to cover the printing costs. While it is good to see the American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, it is simultaneously incredibly sad that we could have let this happen in the first place.
The government swings ... and misses!
As the government continues to bail out those that got us in this mess in the first place -- Citigroup
As my colleague Todd Wenning penned, the best way to spend the bailout money is to fund education programs that teach our youth about saving their money, rather than spending it all (and then some more). Indeed, had we focused on improving the financial literacy of our country years ago, we may never have gotten ourselves into this mess in the first place.
The plunge in personal saving
Over the last 26 years, personal saving rates have fallen from 11% of disposable income in 1982 to just above 1% last quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2005, the midst of the booming housing market, our savings rate actually went negative.
It's painfully apparent that the majority of Americans do not understand money or how to plan their finances. And the pundits wonder why the economy is in shambles! Where has Washington been? Have they not noticed the almost complete disappearance of savings over the past quarter-century?
Some credit where it's due
Now, it would be unfair to say that the government has done absolutely nothing. In January 2008, the President's Council on Financial Literacy was formed. This council, which includes financial heavyweights such as Charles Schwab and Operation HOPE founder John Bryant, was tasked with coming up with "recommendations as to how to better educate people from all walks of life about matters pertaining to their finances and their future." In addition, April was declared as Financial Literacy Month by Congress as a way to help spread awareness of the importance of financial literacy.
This is absolutely a step in the right direction. But it was only a step toward a measured, long-term approach. Such a long-term solution obviously requires significantly more than setting up a council, or declaring one month out of the year a "financial literacy" month.
Rather than waiting for the government to solve the problem for us, we can do something about it. Educate your own children or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews. Teach them the virtues of saving and investing, and making wise decisions with their money. Or contribute to The Motley Fool's Foolanthropy campaign, which intends to make a difference in the area of financial literacy.
How you can help
"Foolanthropy" is the Fool's annual charitable campaign; we've been running it for more than a decade. Last year, we decided to tackle an issue very near and dear to us -- financial illiteracy among our youth.
To select the best charity partner to promote our mission, we narrowed down a long list of potential candidates using our tenets of Foolanthropy, and then enlisted you -- our fellow Fools -- to help make the final decision. After all the Foolish votes had been counted, DonorsChoose.org was selected as the 2008 Foolanthropy charity partner.
We are particularly excited about this year's campaign with DonorsChoose.org, where donors choose exactly where they want their donations to go. You can view the various financial-literacy projects to sponsor here.
Any donation makes a big difference. You can also help us raise money (and awareness) by posting on our discussion boards or making a CAPS pitch during the month of December -- for every post or pitch this month, the Fool is kicking in $0.02.
Donating will help you feel all giddy inside, and it will help our economy -- in the long term -- by helping to create a new generation of savers -- which, in turn, boosts investment, innovation, and entrepreneurship in America.
Learn more about DonorsChoose and Foolanthropy: