Florida Association of Insurance Agents Co-Sponsors Financial Literacy Web Site Project

Nov 18, 2009

The News Service of Florida--November 18, 2009

By Michael Peltier

Deluged by economic uncertainty — failing banks, stock market crashes, taxpayer bailouts and well publicized cases of investment manager fraud – four out of five Floridians don’t feel particularly confident right now.

More ominous, perhaps, is that nearly half of Floridians don’t think next year is going to be any better.

So says a Mason Dixon Polling and Research survey released Wednesday by a coalition of bank, insurance and consumer groups that say consumer education is needed now more than ever.

“Floridians everywhere are a little uncertain about their families’ future,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. “These numbers come as no surprise. Florida families are struggling and they need help.”

In an attempt to bolster consumer confidence, the group unveiled a Website and public education campaign to make consumers savvier on matters relating to money, credit and retirement.

For retailers, policymakers and others, the poll has some sobering statistics. Three in four know of someone who was laid off since January. A full third have more debt than savings, no emergency fund, have borrowed against savings or expect to delay retirement.

As for recent projections by the Florida Retail Federation that consumers will spend up to 4 percent more during the holidays than they did last year? The polls shows 47 percent expect to spend less. Only two in a hundred said they plan to spend more.

Making matters worse, the poll found more than 25 percent of respondents are carrying more than $20,000 in credit card debt and 53 percent carry more than $5,000.

“Floridians are worried, they’re pessimistic and many have very serious financial challenges,” Michelle Lagos Ubben, a spokeswoman for the group, told reporters Wednesday.

To help consumers pick up the pieces, the group has launched a Website: www.MoneyWiseFlorida.com to educate consumers on ways to more safely navigate such perilous financial times. With advice on credit card use, saving for retirement and limiting debt, the Website will be accompanied next year by education al programming.

The initiative is sponsored in part by the Florida Bankers Association, the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, Junior Achievement of West Central Florida and United Way of the Big Bend.