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Gallagher Announces Statewide Essay Contest Promoting Financial Literacy among Teens


CONTACT: Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842                                                   
TALLAHASSEE—Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today 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.
"I'm joining parents and teachers across Florida today in encouraging the development of sound money smarts in our state's young people." Gallagher said in announcing the contest.  "This is a chance for our teens to be rewarded for their knowledge of smart financial decisions."
The essay contest is part of Gallagher's statewide public education initiative, Your Money, Your Life, which is designed to help Floridians 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.
The survey also found that interest runs high statewide in providing Florida's young with a solid education in personal finances.  Nearly 90 percent of Floridians believe schools should teach financial management skills as 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 log on to 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 describe who or what influences their 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, who serves on the Leon County School Board, and Greg Thomas, who serves on the Wakulla County School Board, will 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 classroom efforts and, just as importantly, gives families of students a way to get involved," said Gallagher.   Gallagher also said that staff will conduct presentations in many public schools to help teach basic financial management skills to Florida students.