With almost half of graduating high school seniors saying they’re unsure or unprepared to manage their own personal finances, and with the average 23- to 28-year-old carrying more than $14,000 in debt, it’s clear that we have a deep responsibility to prepare our teens for the opportunities and challenges that their futures hold. With that in mind, I worked with Florida Master Money Mentors, The James Madison Institute and the Florida Council on Economic Education to develop and launch the Florida Students $ave Essay Contest.



The contest is part of my Your Money Matters education initiative, which aims to equip Floridians with financial knowledge in an easy and accessible way.



The goal of the contest is to motivate young people to develop personal financial skills and better prepare them for college and the workplace. The contest will award hundreds of dollars to Florida students who present the best research and planning in response to scenarios that reflect on short- and long-term financial goals.



The contest is open to all Florida high school students (public, private, charter, virtual or homeschooled) for the 2012-13 school year. From now through Nov. 16, students can submit essays of up to 1,200 words for a chance to win a first-place prize of $250. Second- and third-place winners will receive $150 and $50 respectively. Three winners will be chosen from each of five regions across Florida — Northwest Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and South Florida.



To find out more information about the essay contest, including a list of contest rules, regions and how to submit an essay, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/YMM or call the Division of Consumer Services helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).



Jeff Atwater serves as Florida’s elected chief financial officer, state fire marshal, and as a member of the Florida Cabinet.