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Arizona treasurer fights for financial education in schools

Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee talks to a reporter at The Daily Miner office Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee talks to a reporter at The Daily Miner office Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

KINGMAN – State Treasurer Kimberly Yee says Arizona’s economy is strong. She’s traveling the state to promote the new law that requires a semester of finances be taught in high school.

On Tuesday Sept. 10, Yee visited Kingman to meet with Mayor Jen Miles, Mohave County Treasurer Cindy Landa Cox, and Mohave Community College, an institution whose funds her office manages. She also sat with The Daily Miner to discuss the need for financial education in schools and the shape of Arizona’s economy.

“Arizonans are spending money,” Yee said. “Today we are stronger than ever based on the operating balance we manage for the state. It’s like a checking account for the state. Our balance in June has reached the all-time high in Arizona history.”

Born and raised in Arizona, Yee worked in the Treasurer’s Office before, and served in the state legislature, including as Senate Majority Leader in 2010. Now, as Arizona Treasurer, she invests state and local government funds, monitoring the market.

“We manage $40 billion in cash flow for state agency budgets,” she said. “And (there are) $16 billion of assets under our management. Safety and liquidity before yield is our main motto. We invest long-term, slow and steady. Daily changes on the stock market are not that important to us.”

Yee is proud of her accomplishments with the permanent land endowment trust fund, and supporting schools from state land sold last year. Her office just created a special task force to provide financial education in local communities to single moms, seniors on a fixed budget and other vulnerable groups.

“These are essential tools for personal finances,” she said. “How to balance your budget and checkbook. How to manage your credit card.”

Almost 40% of young women don’t pay their bills on time, Yee said. She is very concerned about the millennials; with one in eight with debts in collection. Part of the problem is student debt, and Yee, herself a fiscal conservative, is sympathetic to the problem.

“We have a strong student loan forgiveness program in Arizona,” she said. “I was always a strong supporter of this program as a legislator. If those people commit to stay here in Arizona and be a part of economy, we are willing to work with them.”

Yee herself had student loans and four different jobs in college. That’s why she insists a semester of financial education in high school is a must for every Arizona student. Knowing how to manage your debt and pay it off quickly is essential, she said.

But overall, the treasurer is optimistic and not particularly concerned about some economists’ belief that a global economic recession is flickering on the horizon.

“We have a strong workforce and the private business sector is booming,” she said. “That’s not happening in many other states.”

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