Skip to main content

Remember the food pyramid and how it shaped your nutritional habits? No? Me neither. But the federal government does and is planning to use a similar model to teach Americans financial literacy.

I say planning because the government hasn’t officially decided what this financial food pyramid will be. According this article in the  New York Observer, the government feels it should feature the following building blocks, in no particular order:

  • Earning
  • Spending
  • Saving
  • Borrowing
  • Protecting against risk

This prospective pyramid is part of a Treasury Department initiative that will teach Americans “financial education core competencies.” According to the Office of Financial Education and Financial Access, “the development of core competencies is a fundamental step in establishing a clear understanding about what individuals should know and the basic concepts program providers should cover.”

The Office adds that the core competencies (whatever they are) “are particularly important in establishing a baseline of knowledge, which is crucial for both individuals and providers of financial education to address the current lack of consistency in various financial literacy programs in identifying their goals and objectives, how program success is measured, and what financial information and problem-solving skills participants can be expected to acquire.”

It’s a lot of fancy words, but I’ll go out on a limb and say they’re not happy with what Americans are learning –or haven’t learned, rather - at Trump University.

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

While it’s nice the government wants to teach us how to fish, after providing large corporations with so much bread and water, their new initiative is somewhat troubling. After all, it’s probably best to learn financial literacy from someone who knows how to balance their books and our country isn’t exactly in the black.  
Secondly, the original Food Pyramid might not be that effective considering 63.1% of adults in the U.S. were either overweight or obese in 2009. These stats were derived just four years after the actual food pyramid itself, adopted by the USDA in 1992, received a major makeover. Today, it’s actually called “MyPyramid” and includes a stick person running up a staircase to symbolize exercise. However, I’m sure you knew that already.

Moreover, according to the CDC, obesity in children has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

Scary stats aside, it’s probably not a good sign that the government wants us to tell them what this pyramid should have on it. Diplomatic teachers may ask students what they want to learn about, but they don’t actually let them write the textbooks. If we don’t have a clue (and clearly resorting to a diagram used to teach grade-schoolers implies that), what exactly does the government expect us to contribute? Regardless of this contradiction, the Treasury Department has decided not to finalize its financial pyramid until it knows what you think.

As so-called savvy Americans, we have until Sept. 12 to tell Timothy Geithner our thoughts on core competencies. Written comments should be sent via e-mail to or by mail to the Department of the Treasury, Office of Financial Education and Financial Access, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20220.

Contributors, however, should beware. All comments will be made public on the Office’s website. As such, all stupid ideas should probably be tabled.

Wait a minute …

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at