In recognition of Black History Month, Independent Bank is emphasizing the importance of financial education for minority groups in the community. Education plays a critical role in money management, and research shows minority communities have both the need and desire for more financial education.

“As financial options have grown, so has the need for financial education,” said President Brad Kessel. “A sound understanding of money management gives people the skills and know-how to make successful financial decisions.”

How can you become more financially literate? The following are proven tips from Independent Bank on ways to improve your finances—and your financial education:

  • Budget. Create a realistic budget to balance income with expenses. Budgets allow you to create a plan to pay down debt while saving. Computer software programs or basic budgeting worksheets can help consumers get started. One place to start is the American Bankers Association Education Foundation’s consumer Web page, which features budgeting worksheets and financial calculators that allow consumers to quickly calculate common financial transactions.
  • Lower debt. Try to pay more than the minimum due and always pay on time to avoid late fees and penalties. Pay off debt with higher interest rates first, transfer high-rate balances to credit cards with lower interest rates, and limit long-term debt to purchases that will appreciate in value, such as a home.
  • Save. “No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to begin saving,” said Kessel. Saving money is important because this not only helps to ensure a comfortable future but gives people a buffer against financial surprises. Independent Bank is committed to helping customers save for the future. Our Eagle savings account provides a competitive interest rate, and we also offer online and mobile banking so that customers can have the flexibility to manage their finances.
  • Use credit wisely. “Understanding credit is the key to using credit wisely,” Kessel said. “You should always treat credit like a loan, with the intent to repay in a reasonable period of time.” You should also check credit card statements carefully for unauthorized charges and report such charges immediately to your bank or credit card company. The ABA Education Foundation’s getsmartaboutcredit.com offers tips, resources and links to help consumers use credit wisely.

For additional financial education information or tips for making the right financial moves all year long, visit www.aba.com and click on “Consumers.” To read more articles about budgeting and financial literacy, visit EagleExperience.com.