After a two-year hiatus from in-person outreach programs due to COVID-19, bankruptcy judges are returning to classrooms to teach students how to manage personal finances with informed planning and decision-making. Bankruptcy judges have participated in the Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) initiative for 20 years, helping to mobilize judges and bankruptcy professionals interested in teaching financial literacy throughout the country.
“I’m proud of the program’s generational impact on families when students participate and bring information home to their parents,” said Bankruptcy Chief Judge Mildred Cabán, who runs a CARE-based program in the District of Puerto Rico. “We provide a basic understanding of the value of saving for a rainy day; the dangers of credit cards, if not used properly; and using student loans as a last resort for paying for college.”
CARE was established in 2002, by bankruptcy Judge John C. Ninfo II in Rochester, New York. Upon his retirement, CARE became a national nonprofit organization funded by the American Bankruptcy Institute. Today, volunteers in its network of local chapters reach high schools, colleges and youth groups, teaching financial skills as life skills.
Bankruptcy Judge Michael E. Romero, of the District of Colorado, says his interactions with program participants inspires him to facilitate CARE programs locally year-after-year.
“At one of our presentations at a high school in Denver, a student stood up at the end of the class and said that the presentation was the most valuable information he had learned all year,” Romero said. “That kind of feedback reminds you how important financial literacy is and how important it is for bankruptcy judges to get involved with educating the public.”
April marks National Financial Literacy Month, though bankruptcy judges are at work throughout the year planning creative programs with court staff, the bankruptcy law community, and nonprofit organizations to help audiences of all ages understand personal finance and to avoid falling victim to deceptive credit traps.
Bankruptcy Chief Judge Laurel M. Isicoff, of the Southern District of Florida, who regularly participates in CARE programs in the Miami area, said, “The key to understanding money management is to have a grasp of budgeting and the true cost of credit. If you have to use credit, understand what it is really costing you. It is important to know that credit is borrowing money, and that borrowing money is not free.”
Financial firsts – a first car, a first job, a first credit card, or a first student loan – can become financial pitfalls. These realistic scenarios can help young people manage their personal finances successfully and avoid common money mistakes.