WASHINGTON (2/25/08)--America Saves Week kicked off Sunday, with organizations--including the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions--encouraging people across the nation to save and build wealth, not debt. This year's focus is encouraging people to save through automatic transfers into a savings account. Many states have issued comparable savings week proclamations. Just two examples: Washington has declared Washington Saves Week, while Florida has its Florida Saves Week. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire urged organizations to educate residents about the importance of saving money. The state credit union regulator, the Department of Financial Institutions, is among the organizations offering free financial literacy training to high school teachers in the state. Cities have followed suit. Philadelphia Saves is sponsored by the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Delaware Valley. Partnering with Philadelphia Saves is American Heritage FCU, Franklin Mint FCU, and Mainline Health Employees FCU, according to the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway< Feb. 11). The week is also designated MilitarySaves Week. Many installation credit unions and banks will offer reduced minimum deposits for savings accounts and have special offers to help service members make short- and long-range savings plans, according to the Department of Defense (US Fed News Feb. 20). A recent survey by Thrift Savings Plan found that of nearly 20,000 uniformed and civilian federal employees, less than 21% of active duty service members are saving for retirement. They cited lack of funds as the key reason for not contributing to a savings or retirement account. Of course, credit unions aren't tied to promoting savings just one week a year. Next week, March 3-7 is National Consumer Protection Week, according to the National Credit Union Administration, and some credit unions will urge savings at that week's events. The Ohio Credit Union League is partnering with the state and other organizations to host financial education events throughout the state (eLumination Newsletter Feb. 13). But this week might be a good time for credit unions to start preparing for the National Youth Saving Challenge, when credit unions encourage youth to make deposits at their credit union. The challenge, sponsored by CUNA, occurs during National Credit Union Youth Week, April 20-26. It's a free program that helps credit unions build strong relationships with youth and their families. Use the links for more details.