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State Treasurer Brings Bill to Expand Financial Literacy


The South Dakota State Treasurer is championing a bill to increase financial literacy in the state. The bill gives his office authority to support and develop programs ranging from elementary school students to retirees. It also establishes a fund in the state treasury to accept private donates to support the programs.

But some lawmakers are concerned the bill is an unwarranted expansion of the treasurer’s office.

State Treasurer Josh Haeder offers the House Education Committee a laundry list of statistic to show financial literacy is lacking throughout the country.

“Forty-four percent of Americans don’t have enough to cover a $400 emergency. Thirty-three percent of adults have zero dollars saved for retirement. The average American saves less than 5% of his or her disposable income.”

And Haeder says South Dakota is no better, according to a national Wallet Hub survey of 17 metrics of financial preparedness, including rainy-day funds and high school grades on financial literacy tests.

“The key outta that is out of 50 states, South Dakota currently ranks number 43 in the nation in overall financial preparedness."

South Dakota is also one of four states with an F in financial literacy from the American Public Education Foundation.

Haeder says this bill allows public-private partnerships to offer resources and workshops on financial matters. It does not request state money, but establishes a fund to accept donations. He adds the State Treasurer is trusted to manage such programs, and dozens of other states have either started or are investigating similar partnerships.

But Representative Jess Olson points out a South Dakota Councill for Economic Education already exists through USD, and a donation fund could also be accomplished by forming an 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

“Our constitutional obligation is that we educate children, we provide an informed electorate, but this goes well beyond that scope. Individuals, adults—that’s not our role and it’s certainly not the role of the treasurer.”

Other committee members express concern that the bill will lead to additional staff in the treasurer’s office, and private entities can pursue financial services themselves.

The bill ultimately passes through the House Education Committee with a 10 to 5 vote.