360 Degrees of Financial Literacy
In May 2004, the CPA profession launched a unified financial literacy initiative: 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. The effort brought together the AICPA, state CPA societies and individual CPAs to address a growing public issue: financial illiteracy. The program combines grassroots financial literacy efforts with free resources for the public and tools that CPAs can use at a local level to volunteer to educate Americans of all ages on financial topics. CPAs are deeply concerned about Americans’ high financial illiteracy levels and are working to ensure they have tools and knowledge to weather the current economic crisis.
The initiative sends the message that financial education should be a lifelong endeavor — from encouraging children to save their allowance to helping adults plan for a secure retirement. Program information focuses on what people need at each stage of their lives:
- Tweens & Teens
- College Students
- Military & Reserves
- Parents & Children
- Home Owners
- Small Business Owners
- In Crisis
National CPA Financial Literacy Commission
Chaired by Greg Anton, CPA, CGMA the commission is leading the CPA profession in a national effort to advance the financial literacy of Americans. Toward this end, this group works to increase awareness of the importance of financial literacy education, builds liaisons within the financial literacy community, serves as media spokespeople and promotes efforts involving CPAs.
360 Degrees of Financial Literacy Consumer Website
The AICPA’s award-wining financial literacy website is the centerpiece of the campaign, where consumers can find extensive free resources to help them make sound financial decisions. The site is free from all advertising, sales, promotions and branding — a feature that brought recognition in a Newsweek article. The article cited the 360 Web site saying, “360financialliteracy.org: basic financial education from the nation's CPAs. Impartial and solid.”
State CPA Society Highlights
Six years after launching, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy continues to be highly successful. Across the nation, all fifty state CPA societies are implementing more than 250 grassroots educational programs annually that help Americans address key financial issues through various life stages. They identify community needs, customize 360 Degrees resources and mobilize CPA volunteers. They also take the message to the media and state leaders and legislators to increase awareness of the great national need for financial literacy education.
- During tax season, state CPA societies provided free workshops manned by CPAs, where military personnel and their spouses could obtain free tax preparation services.
- State societies held seminars for local college and university students to instruct them on the dangers of credit cards, creating a budget, making student loans manageable, and planning a financially secure retirement.
- Working with local hospices, state societies offered senior citizens financial guidance as well as free courses teaching them how to avoid financial exploitation by frauds and scams.
- Many states provided the general public with financial advice through “Ask a CPA” email programs and call-in hotlines.
360 Degrees of Financial Literacy Successes
- 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy is continually praised for delivering financial literacy education free of sales, promotions or branding. The life stage approach resonates with consumers who need help at specific moments of their lives.
- The 360 effort receives 750 million media impressions annually. This coverage includes TV, radio, print and Web media and largely focuses on opportunities to bring practical money management solutions to a wider American audience.