From the November 2008 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

An Economic Excursion

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The national savings rate in the United States is approaching an all-time low, meaning many American families are not in a position to successfully plan for their long-term financial well-being. In fact, according to the New York Federal Reserve, consumer debt in the United States now exceeds $2.6 trillion and the average American household now carries a debt load of $16,700, excluding mortgages. "Research shows that between 1989 and 2006, the nation's total credit card charges increased from about $69 billion each year to more than $1.8 trillion," said Michael Joyce, chairman of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) Consumer Education Foundation Board, in a statement. "Those numbers are startling considering where overall consumer debt is today. Our hope is that this tour will help people understand the inherent dangers of debt and how they can reverse this trend within their own household."

In hopes of promoting the need for financial literacy and to help educate people on the need to save, the NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation, with the help of TD Ameritrade Institutional and Kiplinger's Personal Finance, formed a program to reach out to consumers. The organizations have taken this important message to the road on a tour across the country.

For the next year, the first ever "Your Money Bus Tour" will be going from border-to-border and coast-to-coast to deliver financial advice and education. The tour was officially kicked off on September 29 at the TD Ameritrade Institutional's headquarters in Jersey City, New Jersey, and will continue, making more than 60 stops across the country. On its way to the west coast, the bus will stop at places such as Richmond, Virginia; Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Sacramento, California, only to turn back around and return to the east coast via Denver, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and ending up back in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 2009.

Fee-only financial advisors, all of whom are members of NAPFA, will be in cities across the country to conduct free advice events and symposiums where consumers can learn what they need to do to start saving and get their financial life in order. Each stop of the bus tour will feature a variety of events and opportunities for consumers to learn about personal finance. Some of the more popular topics covered are budgeting and how the current market conditions are affecting consumers. In a recent blog post, NAPFA-registered financial advisor Karen McIntyre writes about a conversation she had with an individual that stopped by the free advice event at Independence Park in Philadelphia. "One young man preparing for his wedding was worried about his long-term financial security. His 401(k) dropped 25%....I suggested he use this as a learning opportunity and determine if his investment strategy needs to be adjusted given these unusual times," she wrote. "Of course I suggested he consult with a financial advisor. Since his 401(k) was at Vanguard, I referred him to their website to determine where he was on his road to financial freedom and for guidance on constructing an investment allocation geared to meet his needs."

The bus is also outfitted with a media center for blogging, podcasting, and video feeds so the bus can keep consumers and the media up to date via the Web site www.yourmoneybus.com. A YouTube account has also been set up at www.youtube.com/user/perceptionpr, where consumers can view video from the road.

The NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation, the organization responsible for this tour, is built upon the expertise of NAPFA's more than 2,000 members, and makes grants to organizations that demonstrate the ability to educate consumers about basic personal financial issues. "The NAPFA Consumer Education Foundation has a warm place in my heart," said Joyce in announcing the tour. "The foundation fills a tremendous need for consumers. I am happy to be associated with Your Money Bus to help educate consumers on the need for financial preparation."

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