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Now’s the Time to Improve Your Financial Literacy

How would you finish this sentence: “I need to become more financially…”

The start of April signals it’s not only springtime, but National Financial Literacy Month. I love the spring, and am easily distracted by the blossoming flowers and trees. Are you like this when it comes to thinking about money? I sympathize, but it’s worth your while to pay attention to your financial literacy.

Now that most federal employees have become investors thanks to the Thrift Savings Plan, it’s important to understand at least the basics of money management. How would you finish the following statement: “I need to become more financially…” Here are some possible answers:

  • Stable
  • Aware
  • Responsible
  • Disciplined
  • Organized
  • Savvy
  • Independent
  • Courageous
  • All of the above

Once you figure out what you need to know, you can find ways to learn more and ultimately change your behavior. For some people, that might mean finding ways to either increase their income or cut their spending. Others may simply lack awareness of how much money they need to be financially secure. 

Where should you begin to try to boost your financial literacy? For starters, the Treasury Department’s Financial Literacy and Education Commission has developed  MyMoney.gov, a financial education website. The TSP website is also a great resource. The TSP:

  • Helps you keep track of your savings: Your 2020 participant statement is available in the My Account section. To receive email updates when new participant statements are available, select the Subscribe button on Plan News.
  • Acts as a fiduciary. By law, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board must adopt investment policies that provide for low administrative costs and provide prudent investments suitable for accumulating funds for retirement income.
  • Offers webinars that are open to all federal employees and uniformed service members. Advance registration is required. Most webinars are an hour to an hour and a half.

You can also take part in the virtual events of Money Smart Week, created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago:

  • April 10: “Talking Cents” gives advice on talking to your children, aging parents, or life partner about money. 
  • April 11: “Savings: A Little Can Make a Big Difference” helps you determine how much you need to save per paycheck to reach your financial goals.
  • April 14: “Tax-Related Fraud and Identity Theft,” presented by the Internal Revenue Service, helps you recognize signs that your identity has been stolen and tax-related issues. 
  • April 17: “Tips for Managing Money Ups and Downs” offers budgeting advice to help you plan ahead and meet your monthly financial obligations.

The For Your Benefit program on Federal News Network will host a variety of podcasts this month on financial literacy issues as they relate specifically to federal employees and retirees. I will be the guest co-host on April 12 at 10 am ET, when Kim Weaver, director of external affairs at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, will be the guest.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Federal Benefits Institute has a wide variety of financial and retirement planning topics in its webinar library, including “Tax Planning for Federal Retirees,” “Expecting the Unexpected: What We Learned From the Pandemic,” and “One Year Later: TSP Withdrawal Options.”

According to the 2020 Retirement Income Literacy Survey by the American College/New York Life Center for Retirement Income, four in five older Americans don’t understand the basics of how to successfully plan for a financially secure retirement. I passed their Retirement Income Literacy quiz, but I have to admit, there were some questions I missed. The answer key provided some new insights for me.

Do yourself a favor and become more financially literate this month—and every month, for that matter.

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