April is Financial Literacy Month, an opportunity to learn more about healthy financial habits. This month, I am doing my part to spread the word around Arkansas.

Smart financial practices begin at home. Growing up on a farm in Dardanelle, my parents made sure I learned the important lessons of personal finance. They started a savings account for me at a local bank just after I was born. In high school, I worked at the U.S. Café in Dardanelle for a little extra pocket money. Each paycheck I brought home was met with a friendly — but serious — reminder from my mom, Avis, to put some of those earnings into that savings account. It wasn’t always fun, but I’m glad I did it.

I recently met with 9th grade students at a local high school to discuss financial literacy. Many of them had the same experience I did growing up — learning the importance of saving and practicing responsible financial habits from their parents. But most of these students were surprised — and upset — to learn Washington politicians haven’t been adhering to those same principles.

Unfortunately, it’s true; politicians in Washington aren’t setting a very good example of fiscal responsibility for young people. Oftentimes I fear they have forgotten the important lessons of savings and budgeting they learned growing up.

And as a result, Washington’s finances are a mess! Our debt has grown dramatically over the last six years, both in raw amount — trillions of dollars — and relative to our economy as a whole. In 2008, our national debt was ten trillion dollars — roughly 68 percent of the country’s economic output. By the end of this year, the president’s own Office of Management and Budget projects it will be almost eighteen trillion dollars — larger than our entire economy.

I haven’t forgotten those lessons of savings my mom taught me. I’m working hard in Congress to stop reckless spending and confront our national debt head-on. I’m confident that if we limit spending increases and start practicing some real fiscal restraint in Washington our national debt will shrink in proportion to our economic output. It’s going to take hard work to change the Washington "spend more" culture, but I know we can do it. Proverbs tells us "a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children." These are important words to live by; we should always be working to ensure things are better for the next generation.