The Houston Chronicle (CFED)
By: Daron D. Peschel
April 8, 2013
By many measures, Texans are doing well economically. According to the Dallas Federal Reserve's Texas Index of Coincident Indicators, Texas experienced a shorter recession than the rest of the U.S., going into recession seven months after the nation did, in August 2008, and coming out three months earlier, in December 2009.
And most every official economic measure indicates that we have now recovered fully from the Great Recession and are back on pace in leading the nation in job growth. Texas employment surged in February, with the Texas Workforce Commission reporting over 80,000 new jobs added across the state.
But against this backdrop of good economic news, it may be startling to note that Texas ranks among the lowest performing states in several key measures of household financial stability.
According to a study recently released by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a leading source for data on household financial stability and policy solutions, 65.3 percent of Texas consumers do not qualify for credit at "prime" rates. In this area, we rank 48th among the 50 states, just slightly ahead of the two worst performers, Mississippi and Nevada.
The challenging news does not stop there. According to CFED, more than one-third of Texas households do not have a savings account, ranking the state 42nd compared with the rest of the nation. And nearly 13 percent of Texas households do not have any kind of bank account at all.
For many Texans, short-term needs have supplanted long-term financial security. The CFED report found that only 39 percent of Texas workers have or participate in employer-based retirement plans - ranking us 45th in the nation. Yet if we have learned anything from the recent financial crisis, it is that smart financial planning - such as budgeting, saving for emergencies and preparing for retirement - is essential for helping individuals and families weather financial shocks and build better lives.
So there's a lot of work to do here in Texas, and financial education is key. But how many Americans really have all the financial knowledge they need?
Surveys indicate that many of us know we need help with financial matters, but too often they find the subject too intimidating and avoid it. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling reports that 40 percent of U.S. adults give themselves a grade of C, D or F on their knowledge of personal finance. And nearly four in five U.S. adults (78 percent) agree that they could benefit from additional advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional. But where can they go to get that advice?
Here in Houston, an annual citywide effort aims to make financial education more accessible, and at no cost. Held annually in April, Houston Money Week (HMW) provides financial education across the Greater Houston region. This year's event, coordinated by 105 community partners, runs until Saturday.
The 2013 HMW lineup features over 120 events, from community fairs to seminars to one-on-one training, for all age groups, income levels and financial backgrounds. With so many events to choose from, most everyone is guaranteed to find a financial topic that will meet their interests or needs.