Volume 1 Number 45
November 8, 2004







Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher rolled out an essay contest aimed at encouraging financial literacy among middle and high school students. The contest, “Cash in on Your Money Smarts,” offers students a chance at more than $7,500 in prizes statewide, with a top individual award of $750 for one student in each of five geographic regions.

The essay contest is part of Gallagher’s statewide public education initiative, Your Money, Your Life, which is designed to help Floridians in need of information on how to stretch limited budgets, avoid debt and build assets, including savings and home ownership.  Gallagher started the program earlier this year in response to a recent survey reporting that many Floridians put themselves at financial risk by waiting too late to save and by running up debt.  The program includes a comprehensive educational website available at www.yourmoneyyourlife.org.  

The survey also found that interests run high statewide in providing Florida’s young with a solid education in personal finances.  Nearly 90 percent of Floridians believe schools should make teaching financial management skills a required part of the curriculum.

The essay contest, “Cash in on Your Money Smarts,” is open to teens 14-18 years old.  Students must submit a 750-word essay on the topic of good financial decision-making skills to the Florida Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees, by February 11, 2005.  Essays may be submitted electronically or by mail, in English or Spanish.  Three essays will be selected for each of five geographic regions in Florida, and cash prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place for a total of $7,500 in prizes.  For complete contest details or to download an essay application or submit an essay electronically, students, teachers and parents should log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com and click “Cash in on Your Money Smarts.”

Essay contest participants will be asked to explain why they believe they have “Money Smarts.”  Responses may address earning and saving money for a special purchase, using a budget, or they may describe who and what influences youth spending. 

Judging the contest will be representatives from the Florida Council on Economic Education, a non-profit organization that supports financial education initiatives in schools and businesses statewide.  In addition, department employees Fred Varn and Greg Thomas, who also serve as Leon County School Board members, will also participate in the judging process.

“We hope this essay contest is a fun and educational way for teens to learn about good money management,” Gallagher said.  “Learning these valuable skills now will pave the way for a lifetime of financial success.”

Financial support for the “Cash in on Your Money Smarts” essay contest comes from the Investor Protection Trust, a fund created in 2003 from a multi-million dollar settlement reached with federal regulators.  A portion of the funds was earmarked for investor/financial education.

“The ‘Cash in on Your Money Smarts’ contest dovetails with school-room efforts and, just as importantly, gives families of students a way to get involved,” said Gallagher.   Gallagher also said that staff with the department will conduct presentations in many public schools to help teach basic financial management skills to Florida students. 

The skyline for November is beautiful Lakeland in Polk County.