Get ready to swipe your credit card because the holiday season is rapidly approaching. But opting to purchase with plastic happens all year-round.

And while the decision to swipe increases each year, so does the hole in your wallet. The Federal Reserve reported that between 1983 and 2001, credit card debt for 25-34-year-olds nearly tripled, from $3,989 to $12,000.

"It's too easy to spend, we need to discipline ourselves," said Virgil A. Kahl, CPA, CFP from Spring Ridge Financial Group, LLC, located in Spring Township. "It's a major social message, it's a day of reasoning."

What Kahl is referring to is a certain 'spokesperson' that will soon have his face on nationwide television commercials and in numerous public announcements. He is the "Smokey the Bear" of saving money and in the next few months residents will see how he makes wise decisions in 'feeding the pig'.

"Benjamin Banks" is a piggy bank all grown up and is the star spokespig in helping others take small saving steps to build a solid financial tomorrow. This human character, who appropriately has a pig snout and ears, is part of the new national public service campaign from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and The Advertising Council (Ad Council).

The goal of the campaign is to encourage the 40 million Americans ages 25 to 34 to take control of their personal finances. The campaign, Feed the Pig, is a new component of the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy effort - which aims to educate Americans about how financial issues affect their lives.

It features a website, www.360financialliteracy.org, offering free tools and resources to help Americans manage their finances through every stage of life, as stated in the www.feedthepig.org website. "The advertisements target 25-34 year olds because they have had enough time to develop bad habits, but they also have time to reverse them," Kahl commented.

The initiative was launched because financial illiteracy is a national crisis. In 2005 the U.S. had a negative savings rate, a first since the Great Depression, according to Kahl and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA). The Ad Council additionally reported that Americans spend $1.22 for every $1.00 that they earn - resulting in a U.S. major social issue.

This negative savings rate is a major concern because "you have to save a nest egg that will last 30-40 years," Kahl said. "The big mistake we've made with young people is that they were taught to save for a down payment on a house...people must discipline themselves to save for retirement first, then figure out what they can afford next."

Kahl added that today many couples and individuals opt to buy a home that is too expensive. "They bought first then saved next, we must break the habit of spending on needless things."

So what will happen if these big spenders don't start saving?

"Over 2 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2005, up from 400,000 in 2004," Kahl said. She explained that if people don't deal with the financial illiteracy crisis it will become a societal problem - then the solution rests on the working population. "The government will be responsible for them and so will the taxpayers...this is a call to action to save Americans from themselves."

In the meantime Kahl encourages residents to look at their net worth once a year and every year it should be increasing. She also offered the following key points:

* Save first, spend later.

* Find out what it cost you to live now, and plan for what it will cost to live during retirement years.

* Just do it - get some help. "It's hard to be objective with your own money, talk to a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or financial advisor and get advice."

For more information on saving tips, visit www.360financialliteracy.org, or www.feedthepig.org.

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