Man after long day holding his glasses
Posted by: Howard Dvorkin, CPA
Date of post: April 30, 2018

It doesn’t work because it’s not year.

I’ve written two how-to books on personal finance, spent more than two decades counseling Americans about their money, and created to help them achieve financial freedom. I say all that not to boast, but to lend credence to this counter-intuitive conclusion…

Financial Literacy Month isn’t working.

Every April is Financial Literacy Month, a time when folks like me and educational resources like are supposed to make a special effort to convince Americans to trim their debts. We’re more than halfway through FinLit Month 2018, and what has changed? In the 15 years since we launched these months — ever since Congress supported the idea in 2003 — what difference have we made?

According to the’s Personal Finance Statistics, which is Google’s top resource for this kind of information…

  • Credit card debt passed the $1 trillion mark.
  • Student loan debt is approaching $1.5 trillion.
  • A million student loan borrowers default every year.
  • “Delinquency rates on the rise for both auto loans and credit cards.”

I’m not a defeatist, however. This time last year, I expressed some skepticism about Financial Literacy Month when I wrote

I simply recognize the limitations of “awareness” — especially when it comes to personal finance. Let’s face it, many Americans are aware that they’re burdened with hefty credit card balances, auto loans, and student loans.

My solution? We need more than Financial Literacy Month. We need Financial Literacy Year.

I’m not kidding. Just as the Chinese calendar celebrates 2018 as the Year of the Dog, we need to to plan now for 2019 — the Year of No Debt. Why not? If Congress supported the idea of Financial Literacy Month 15 years ago, even that gridlocked branch of government should be able to get behind Financial Literacy Year.

If there’s any common ground left in this hyper-partisan era, it’s this issue. Republicans, Democrats, the alt-right, antifa, conservatives, liberals — debt doesn’t care about political leanings. It can wreak havoc on anyone and their families.

This country needs one year dedicated to personal debt. I can make a compelling argument that this is a national security issue. When nearly 1 in 5 Americans have no money saved for emergencies, how will they survive a national emergency?

Over the past two years, I’ve written often about the next recession that will hit us. I’ve mused that it might be caused by student loans or even auto loans, but whatever the reason, it will be made worse by the crushing personal debt that has only grown since the last recession.

The Great Recession was indeed a national disaster. Recessions are like the common cold: You can’t avoid them, but you can protect yourself against them and lessen their impact when they finally do strike you. Alas, our financial immune system is now so fragile, we’re more susceptible than ever before.

I sure hope, if you’re in debt and reading this, you’ll take steps to shed that debt — during the rest of Financial Literacy Month and beyond. If you do nothing else, I hope you’ll call for a free, no-obligation debt analysis. You can’t efficiently get rid of your debts until you understand what they are.

Perhaps I’m lucky enough to have some members of Congress reading this column. If so, I beg you: Don’t just worry about the national debt. Worry about the personal debt of your constituents.