Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jun 18 (1913) Happy Bday Sylvia Porter! Pioneering financial journalist: "We are a nation of economic illiterates"

On this day in 1913 the financial advice columnist Sylvia Porter was born. From 1936-1978 Ms. Porter wrote about personal finance for the New York Post.  She was loved for her ability to put complex financial issues into language that non-financial people could understand. At the height of her career, her readership numbered 40 million.

When Porter's family lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929, she switched her major from English to economics and became an expert on government bonds. Writing under the moniker "S.F. Porter," her first column was in American Banker. Her readership grew quickly, and within three years she was the finance editor at the New York Post.

In an interview in People Magazine in 1979, as another economic crisis was unfolding, she reiterated her life-long view that ignorance is the cause of most financial misfortune.

"We are a nation of economic illiterates. I have been arguing for years that we must make pure economics and consumer economics required courses in high school, if not elementary school. The people who teach economics in college are so ignorant themselves it's ridiculous! A group of college-educated bankers was given a test, and the majority missed questions on the balance of payments problem, the functions of the Federal Reserve and the origin of commercial bank deposits. Enough!"

Books by Sylvia Porter

How to Make Money in Government Bonds (1939)
If War Comes to the American Home (1941)
How to Live Within Your Income (1948, with J. K. Lasser)
Money and You (1949)
Managing Your Money (1953, with J. K. Lasser)
How to Get More for Your Money (1961)
Sylvia Porter's Money Book (1975)
Planning Your Retirement (1991)
Updated Sylvia Porter's Money Book: How to Earn It, Spend It, Save It, Invest It, Borrow It - And Use It to Better Your Life (Volume 2) 
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.