Help is on the way for people who do not know how to balance a checkbook.

The American Bankers Association last week plunked down $300,000 to establish a foundation to teach people the nuts and bolts of money management.

Bankruptcy filings are at record highs. Savings are at all-time lows.

These trends are among the reasons cited by the ABA for founding the American Bankers Association Education Foundation.

Among the first things the foundation is developing are workbooks for poor and moderate-income people on such topics as obtaining a credit history, correcting a bad one, and planning a budget to avoid problems in the future.

"Education is the key to responsible consumerism," said foundation chairwoman Linda Sanders at the program's unveiling last week.

Students 'Unprepared'

Ann Windham Wallace, director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, added that a recent survey found high school students "unprepared for many of the critical purchasing decisions they will need to make after they graduate."

The foundation intends to broaden the ABA's Personal Economics Program, founded in 1977.

In this program, bankers volunteer to visit schools and community groups to provide basic instruction on personal finance.

Last year, 4,286 bankers gave about 26,000 presentations in 27 states, the ABA said.

Standard Approach

The foundation will extend the program to all 50 states and provide bankers with new educational materials and a uniform approach.

In a comic book called "Meet the Bank," children in elementary school can learn how a bank works.

For high school students there is a series of videos called "Banking and You" showing how to open a checking account and build a credit rating.

Thomas A. Fleming, named national teacher of the year for his work at the Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., said that learning about money "makes a difference" for troubled teens.

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