Carrie Schwab Pomerantz
Dear Readers: Every week I attempt to answer your questions so you can make the smartest financial decisions for yourself and your family. This week, though, I'd like to depart from the usual format to speak to you more broadly about -- and to enlist your help in -- the drive toward financial literacy.

And here's why. As a society, most of us -- and not just the young -- are suffering from a severe lack of financial literacy. Young adults, middle-aged adults, older adults, men and women across the spectrum of education and wealth are all included. And unfortunately, the stakes have never been higher: No one is going to step in and take care of us. No one else will pay our overdue credit card bills, force us to save for retirement, or keep us from living beyond our means. We've got to do these things for ourselves.

But the good news is that every single one of you can be part of the solution, starting with these straightforward steps:

--Start at home. Educate yourself and begin an honest discussion about money within your family. Know where your money is going and think carefully about your trade-offs. Save for the future and be a good role model for your children. If you're not sure about which insurance policy is best or when to file for Social Security, take the time to find the right answer. Don't hesitate to seek professional help.

--Find out if your children's schools include financial education in their curricula. If not, speak up. If you're qualified, offer to conduct a financial workshop. Or find experts who can.

--If you own a business, offer financial education to your employees as part of your benefit plan. You can call in the services of a financial institution that provides educational materials and guidance. After all, financial security makes for more productive employees.

--Encourage your elected officials to promote financial education wherever possible: in our schools, our workplaces, and through government programs.

As some of you may know, we at the Charles Schwab Foundation are trying to do our part. We devote the lion share of our human and financial resources to promoting and improving financial literacy across the country. In fact, right now we're wrapping up our annual Schwab Volunteer Week -- a nationwide effort in which nearly 4,000 employees roll up their sleeves and pitch in to improve the financial well-being of their communities.

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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