Teach employees about money

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GE Commercial Finance Fleet Services has selected Black Book National Auto Research, a provider of wholesale pricing guidebooks, as its resale benchmark. GE plans to expand the use of the guidebook to benchmark returns on commercial fleet sales.

Internet Truckstop (www.truckstop.com), a freight matching service, struck a deal with eCredit to offer the latter’s Trade Experience Reports to its customers and to augment its own CreditStop reports through integration with eCredit’s credit information database. The upgraded service will be called CreditStop Plus.

Central Freight Lines agreed to be acquired by a company controlled by Jerry Moyes in a deal that valued the trucking company at $2.25 a share. All shareholders of Waco, Texas-based Central – other than Moyes and certain Moyes family trusts – will receive the takeover price, which represents roughly a 24 percent premium over the Jan. 27 close.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises reached agreements to increase its ownership interest in Arnold Transportation Services and Total Transportation to 80 percent from 49 percent, for a total of $7.8 million in cash. The transactions are expected to close prior to the end of the first quarter of 2006.

Double D Express, a Midwest regional carrier based in Peru, Ill., has begun the process of becoming 100 percent employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

As a Certified Financial Planner and a Certified Public Accountant, I get lots of reactions when I sit down with executives for the first time to discuss personal financial issues such as tax planning, retirement planning, investing, family goal setting, budgeting, insurance, estate planning and the like. The most common is “I’m afraid to admit how little I truly know about these topics!”

If this applies to you, you need not conceal your concern. In reality, the vast majority of people owning businesses, or with careers managing companies or departments, know very little about personal financial planning. Business graduates – even accounting school graduates, to my knowledge – rarely are formally educated in personal finance.

Shocking? Not really. Did you ever take – or even know about – a course on how to buy investments, purchase life or disability insurance, set up personal finance software, balance your checkbook, or choose a college savings plan for your kids? Not likely. Virtually all of America is untrained on these issues. Is it any wonder that our employees – or our children – get in over their heads with credit card debt, or make common mistakes that set them back years at a time?

As business owners, why should we be concerned about financial literacy? Beyond the obvious – that we generally need this knowledge for ourselves and our own family – it also makes great sense to promote financial literacy inside your own company. If your employees have fewer money concerns, they likely will be more focused on company and work issues. And employees with personal financial savvy can more easily grasp and implement company strategies that drive higher profits and cash flow.

Help is available. At least two main organizations of professional advisers and one association have stepped forward in an effort to fill the “financial literacy gap.” The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has established the “360 Degrees of Financial Literacy” project as an excellent online resource. The Financial Planning Association (FPA), a main body of CFPs, also has online help available. And if someone in your family or a friend has consumer debt problems, consider the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).

On the AICPA site, you can view financial planning tools and solutions through any of 11 “Life Stages,” from childhood through college, career, marriage and parenthood, homeownership, entrepreneurship and retirement. Each section is packed with interactive tools, articles and answers to frequently asked questions. Through this site, parents or employers can lead discussions and help educate themselves and their family or employees on key concepts.

The FPA allows you to pose your own personal general financial planning question – without cost or obligation – and it will be answered by a CFP who is a member of the association. Further links through this site take you to dozens of articles on topics such as “20 Keys to Being a Smarter Investor” or “Choosing the Right Insurance for Your Life’s Stages.”

For many, credit card or other consumer debt is already a problem with few apparent solutions. For these, the NFCC’s site offers education on possible ways to work out of the crisis and get the family finances back on track. Resources available include counseling and debt management plans, plus sections on money management education and homeowner counseling and education. The Budget Calculator tool under money management education allows you to set up a family budget and determine how your spending compares to others in your own income category.

Want to really get into the subject? One of my favorite books is Eric Tyson’s “Personal Finance for Dummies,” a humorous general text that will make you feel much better about yourself and this topic. Beyond online resources or books, consult your CPA or CFP for customized help on topics specific to you. Whatever your reason or need, you should not worry about admitting any lack of understanding. In America, you have plenty of company – and help is available.

Resources
“For Credit Card Debt Workouts,” National Foundation for Credit Counseling: website

“Ask a CFP Professional,” general financial planning questions that will be answered by CFPs who are members of the Financial Planning Association: website

“360 Degrees of Financial Literacy,” website by the American Institute of CPAs offering general information for managing personal finances: website