Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is good to be back here for a second day of hearings on financial literacy. I am glad that yesterday we were able to begin to lay out the problem with the help of Chairmen Greenspan and Pitt as well as Secretary O’Neill. I think it is clear that there is a consensus that something needs to be done.
I know today that we are going to hear from a diverse array of groups who have been working very hard to combat financial illiteracy. Their work is to be commended. Too often educational outreach like this goes underappreciated. Reaching the financially illiterate is not simple. Many in society are intimidated by financial services and are too embarrassed to get help. Others do not fully understand the financial planning mistakes they are making and the true costs of those decisions. Others, simply wrapped up in their busy lives, never take time to assess their financial situation, and consequently they lose thousands of dollars unnecessarily to their creditors.
I hope as we examine this issue today, we can build off of the findings discussed yesterday. We know the problem is severe. The question is: what do we do about it?
There is a wealth of information out there, but, as I said, it is not always reaching the communities most in need. In particular, the Internet is a wonderful resource, but those with the most limited financial skills often are doubly impaired because they lack access to the Web. This digital divide is something that we must work to bridge.
We must also look at language barriers as well. For many consumers, the language of financial services already sounds like a foreign language. Just imagine what it is like to take that confusing foreign language of interest, A.P.R.s, yields, fees, capital gains, et cetera, translate it into plain English and then translate it into Spanish or Arabic or Russian. As a nation of immigrants, this is a challenge to which we should pay close attention.
Finally, I hope that our witnesses will give us some insight as to what they think the role of government is in addressing this problem. We obviously have an obligation to pass and enforce strong laws and regulations. Furthermore, I can envision a role for our government in promoting education, but in many ways, educational efforts are often most successful when they are done at the grass roots level. And, they are often most successful when they are done in a sustained way. These are difficult and expensive challenges, indeed.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and I welcome their insight.