Business

This piggy gets to teach how to save

Benjamin Bankes might not be Super Bowl material this season, but I'd love to see him in prime time next year.

You've probably never heard of Benjamin, but he has many fine attributes. He's a snappy dresser, a quick thinker and thrifty, and he seems to make all the right moves.

He's also a pig.

The Ad Council and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants created Benjamin as the centerpiece of a national television and radio public service advertising campaign that promotes sound money management habits.

Benjamin is supposed to provoke memories of our piggy banks. Indeed, he encourages you to empty your pockets of spare change and dollar bills and "feed the pig." Benjamin has potential.

These ad spots may not win any major awards or generate much of a cool factor with kids, but they do succeed in delivering a clear message: Young adults need to take control of their finances and build long-term financial security.

The CPA institute and the Ad Council launched the ad campaign in late 2006 as part of a three-year commitment to try to educate young people to build solid financial futures. The two organizations also created a Web site, www.feedthepig.org, that has plenty of high-caliber resources on topics such as parenting, home ownership, saving for college and retirement.

The free Web site was developed primarily to fit the needs of about 40 million 25- to 34-year-olds in this country who are typically in the "career building" stage of their life. There's no reason high school teens and college-age kids couldn't pick up some pointers on car shopping, investing and managing summer job paychecks.

The site is also perfectly suited for young parents needing pointers on how to raise financially fit kids.

"All Americans need to do a better job of planning, saving and investing for retirement, and the younger you are when you start, the better off you'll be," said David Walker, comptroller general of the United States.

Here are some of the site's features:

BROWN-BAGGING IS CHEAPER -- How much do you spend on lunch or late- afternoon latte fixes? Use the "lunch savings" calculator to figure out the monthly savings of making your lunch rather than eating out. There's a second calculator on how long it takes to pay off credit card debt.

SIMPLE SAVINGS STEPS -- Sign up for weekly e-mailed savings tips. About 61,000 currently subscribe. Or check out the site's 10 penny-pinching gems. Among them: Dust off your library card and rent DVDs for free, prepare a large meal on Sundays and live off the leftovers during the week, and stop racking up wasteful ATM charges.

PLOT YOUR PROGRESS -- Download a "Feed the Pig" calendar that features monthly money management "projects." In January, set up a household budget. In February, map out short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. May is "save the summer paycheck" month, and July's message is to shop smart. By December, the message will be to become a savvy giver. Users are directed to the CPA Institute's Web site, http://360financialliteracy.org, for articles, frequently asked financial questions and financial calculators.

There's even a MySpace page that lets users ask questions and get answers to help attain financial goals. A recent posting was from a woman who has had "severe problems" with wasting tons of money eating out.

"I would like to be successful in switching over to a habit that is good for me and stopping the habits that are bad for me," she wrote. "I'm now trying to put the (doughnut) money into my piggy bank each day. I sometimes still eat out, but at the same time I'm making myself come up with $3 each day for the pig."

Score one for Benjamin Bankes.

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