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Gallagher Announces Statewide Essay Contest to Promote Financial Education among Teens


Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842    

Contest offers teens a chance to win up to $750

TALLAHASSEE—Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today unveiled an essay contest aimed at encouraging investor education among middle and high school students in Florida.  The contest, "Cash in on Your Money Smarts," offers teens 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. 

"This contest offers Florida teens a unique opportunity to be rewarded for their knowledge of smart investing and their persuasive writing skills," said Gallagher.  "Learning these valuable skills now will help pave the way for a lifetime of financial success."

The essay contest is part of Gallagher's statewide public education initiative, Your Money, Your Life, which is designed to help Floridians make better informed financial decisions.  Gallagher launched the program in 2004 after learning 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 essay contest, "Cash in on Your Money Smarts," is open to Florida teens who are between the ages of 14 and 18.  Students must submit a 1000-word essay to the Florida Department of Financial Services by January 27, 2006.  Essays may be submitted electronically or by mail, in English or Spanish. 

Each essay contest participant will be asked to consider and write a comprehensive response to the following question:  "If you had $100,000 to invest, what would you invest in and why?" The response should address why you would invest in certain companies or products, what information you used to back up your investment decisions, and how investing can help you meet your money goals.

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 on the Leon County and Wakulla County School Boards respectively, will participate in the judging process.

Cash prizes will be awarded to each of the top three essays in five regions across the state, for a total of 15 winners.  First place offers a $750 cash reward, second place garners $500 and third place is $250.  For complete contest details, to download an essay application or submit an essay electronically, log on to and click "Cash in on Your Money Smarts."

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 fund 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 department staff is available to conduct presentations in schools across the state to help teach basic financial management skills to Florida students. 

As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. Gallagher also serves as the State Fire Marshal.