Right now, we’re in the middle of Money Smart Week® 2019. This national campaign is held each year to educate folks young and old about better management of personal finances. It’s a noble cause, given that many Americans are not in good shape financially:
- 44% of Americans don’t have the funds to cover a $400 emergency
- 43% of student loan recipients are behind on payments or aren’t making them at all
- Mortgage debt across the country surged to a record $9.4 trillion in 2018
- Americans’ credit card debt hit a record high of $834 billion in 2018
- Total credit card debt was up 7.9% in Florida for 2018, the second-highest increase in the nation – trailing only Nevada
What is causing the empty-wallet epidemic? Many blame a lack of personal finance education in public schools that would help prepare students for success and prevent financial disarray in adulthood.
In November 2018, the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act (SB 114) was introduced to the Florida Senate. The bill seeks to require high school students to complete a half-credit financial literacy and money management class prior to graduation. In addition to managing a bank account, classes would teach students about completing a loan application, computing interest, income taxes, and simple contracts. If it passes, the Sunshine State would become just the sixth state in the nation to require such a course.
Gambling Addiction Can Devastate Personal Finances – But It Doesn’t Stop There
For an individual carrying the financial burdens of student loan debt, a mortgage, and mounting credit card balances, adding even a dime more may seem like the tipping point. Now consider an individual who suffers from problem gambling.
Gambling addiction does not discriminate and affects people across all ages, ethnicities, income/education levels, and financial situations. Whether the person is already struggling with debt or has significant savings, the Hidden Addiction can wreak havoc on one’s finances.
According to data compiled from the FCCG’s 24-hour HelpLine, in 2017-2018, the average amount of lifetime gambling losses reported by callers was $194,796 with one-third (33%) stating the gambler lost $90,000 or more. Further, while the average gambling debt reported was nearly $26,000, and 25% of respondents admitted to owing $25,000 and above, nearly one third (32%) of the gamblers earned less than $25,000 per year. Over half (54%) of the respondents owed the money to credit cards, and 57% cited banks/credit unions (26%) or loan companies (31%). More than 45% acknowledged they owed money to their utility, rent, or mortgage company because of money spent on gambling versus bills.
But that’s not all – did you know that eight to ten additional people are affected by each case of problem gambling? All too often, it leads to family and relationship troubles, child neglect, crime, legal disputes, and even physical harm.
Problem Gambling Prevention Fits Right into Money Smart Week®
While gambling can be a safe recreational activity for most, those suffering from gambling addiction cannot control their urges to place a bet.
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has developed an array of tools designed to educate Floridians – especially our youth – about probability and risk-taking, so that everyone can make smart choices about gambling in adulthood:
- Click here to download our free Financial Toolkit, which you can use to evaluate your financial situation and create a budget plan for the future.
- The Smart Choices program, designed for elementary school students, features lesson plans, worksheets, and fun activities to teach the importance of honesty and the impacts of risk-taking behavior, while encouraging sound thinking about money.
- The FCCG also worked with educators to create middle and high school lesson plans that teach the crucial math concept of probability in a fun and engaging way.
To learn more about the resources that the FCCG offers for different populations, click here.
If you feel as though you or someone you know is suffering from a gambling problem – financially or otherwise – call Florida’s 24-7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (263-4848). Help and hope are available, and gambling addiction is treatable. Learn more at gamblinghelp.org.
 Pascarella, Dani. “4 Stats That Reveal How Badly America Is Failing At Financial Literacy.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 Apr. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/danipascarella/2018/04/03/4-stats-that-reveal-how-badly-america-is-failing-at-financial-literacy/#79f4b4112bb7.
 Mitchell, Josh. “More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 7 Apr. 2016, www.wsj.com/articles/more-than-40-of-student-borrowers-arent-making-payments-1459971348.
 Tatham, Matt. “Consumer Debt Reaches $13 Trillion in Q4 2018.” Experian, Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 26 Mar. 2019, www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/consumer-debt-study/.
 Tatham, Matt. “State of Credit Cards.” Experian, Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 11 Mar. 2019, www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/state-of-credit-cards/.
 The State of Florida, Senate, Florida State Senate District 7, and Travis Hutson. “SB 114: High School Graduation Requirements/Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act.” SB 114: High School Graduation Requirements/Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, The Florida Senate, 30 Nov. 2018. www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00114/.