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Eye On Boise

‘It can be done’

U.S. Rep. Butch Otter joined the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition for a press conference on the state capitol steps today, kicking off a month of efforts urging Idahoans, young and old, to become more financially literate.

Idaho Department of Finance Director Gavin Gee said the consequences of financial illiteracy can be “sad and tragic,” including falling victim to financial fraud and identity theft. Gov. Dirk Kempthorne has declared this “Financial Literacy Month” in Idaho, and many classes and outreach efforts are planned this month, targeting everyone from high school students to seniors. The focus is on budgeting, saving, investing wisely, and getting out of debt, along with such topics as retirement planning. A 2004 national report estimated that one in four American workers is seriously financial distressed.

Asked his personal advice to youngsters, as someone who rose from humble beginnings to great wealth, Otter recalled how his family struggled to provide for 10 children. “We had a lot of questions in our family of where the next meal would come from, but we had a mother and father who were very budget-conscious,” he said. “It was a long time before I ever got a pair of new shoes.” Otter said his parents’ financial advice – live within your means, work hard and save – is the same advice that works today. “I guess my advice is it can be done,” Otter said.

Of course, it also helps, as Otter did, to marry the daughter of the richest man in the state – but he didn’t mention that.

The third-term congressman and candidate for governor – other announced candidates so far include Idaho Falls newspaper publisher Jerry Brady, a Democrat, and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, a Republican, also is expected to run – told Gee and Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition President Valerie Brooks that their financial literacy advice is needed in Congress. “Gavin and Valerie, I’ve gotta tell you that I could use your help, because I’ve got a class of about 400 back in Washington, D.C. that could use some financial literacy,” he said to laughter.

Brooks responded, “Next week I’ll be in D.C., so if you want to set up an education session, I’ll be glad to help with that.” Otter said, “We’ll call it Economic Literacy 001.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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