If ever there was a need for knowing more about money management, it's now. As millions of older Americans have learned over the past few years, even the best-laid financial plans can go awry. Just because you have smooth sailing one day doesn't mean it will be that way tomorrow.
Take a look at just three of the scenarios millions experienced during the Great Recession:
- The many older people who planned their retirement around selling their houses and moving to smaller places, who have been horrified to see the value of their homes fall below the mortgages they took out to pay for them.
- The college graduates (and their parents) who borrowed thousands of dollars to finance their education, confident they'd be able to pay the loans off quickly once they got well-paying jobs like their older brothers and sisters did; now they can't find anything to do, even waiting tables.
- The many retirees who saw their 401(k)s shrink instead of grow, became desperate and lost even more money on get-rich-quick schemes pulled off by crooks who prey on the elderly.
The tough economy and the need for money management know-how are the reasons why AARP and AARP Foundation West Virginia celebrated Money Smart Week in April for the third consecutive year, working with more than two dozen partners to create financial education events every day of a very full week.
On Monday, April 23, AARP and AARP Foundation kicked off Money Smart Week with "Breakfast with Ben [Franklin]," featuring West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Attorney General Darrell McGraw and other state officials. Prizes were awarded to middle school students who participated in the Money Smart Week essay contest. After the breakfast, AARP West Virginia Director Gaylene Miller, Foundation Director Scott Adkins and Foundation Vice President for Income Emily Allen were among the experts who answered questions about Money Smart Week on Talkline, a two-hour statewide, live radio broadcast.
Operation Scam Jam, a free consumer workshop for nearly 300 older people in Martinsburg, took top billing on Tuesday. Attendees learned how to outsmart scam artists, avoid Medicare fraud and safeguard personal finances. Nationally known consumer protection expert Hubert "Skip" Humphrey III gave the keynote address at the event; Humphrey now leads the Older Americans Office of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, D.C. Representatives from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the Senior Medicare Patrol (a federal grant program administered by AARP Foundation) also spoke.