Educating Tomorrow’s Spenders – by Dr. Beth Lynne

Advisor Beth Lynne
Beth Lynne

College loans, credit cards, mortgages—they all add up to a lack of disposable income, and worse yet, with the possible social security shortfall predicted by the year 2034, no extra funds to put away for retirement, so today’s high school students run the risk of not having enough money to live on through their golden years. Even worse, they may find it difficult to support themselves and their eventual families. It is difficult to predict what will happen to our economy, but if today’s high school graduates learn to arm themselves financially, they can live a comfortable life with a soft monetary cushion.

Several states have instituted financial literacy courses in their graduation requirements—North Carolina being the most recent, the 20th to do so (Keshner, 2019) and Florida does have a financial literacy curriculum, but it is not required for graduation, nor is there, ironically perhaps, funding for the initiative (Yaspan, 2020)—but are these courses adequate for future retirees? Research shows that in states that have requirements, “students exhibit more informed behavior around college financing, in particular those from lower-income families. In states without requirements, there is a 15-point gap in access to financial education between kids from lower-income versus wealthier families” (Council for Economic Education, 2020, para. 2).

A look at the national standards (JumpStart Coalition, 2017) for financial literacy K-12 reveals great intent. They include goals for avoiding debt and choosing interest rates. They examine how to avoid investment fraud as well as how to put away for retirement. A look at entrepreneurship is also an interesting surprise, as well as an overview of how income tax works. As young people continue to look at working at their own start-up businesses, these two concepts need to be explored hand in hand, as taxing those who are self-employed can be harsher than being employed by a company or other organization.

What might be worth adding to the curriculum is something on cryptocurrency, such as buying and selling bitcoin, with advantages and disadvantages examined or even a tour of certain e-wallets and how to protect oneself from hacking. Historically, school curriculum is a step behind the real world, particularly where tech is concerned, so this lack is not surprising. Another element that could be shored up is meshing the financial literacy requirement with career readiness courses to tailor to individuals and for schools to get a sense of where their students are going in the future. This is a crucial element of financial and career readiness. Actual job placements in which students earn money, college credit, and grades can create possibly the first item to list on a resume under “experience.” These can be in person or in the virtual world, but having job skills and practicing them is critical today. According to The Motley Fool (2019), repetition of the skills is the key to retention of them, as learning personal finance is “similar to learning a new language” (para. 17). Once students have jobs, they must prove that they can handle their finances to pass the sequence of literacy courses.

And, it might be a good idea if some of the other 30 states consider adopting the financial literacy requirements as well, particularly since the results seem to be so favorable. Setting aside funding for this initiative is common sense, for in the long run, people who can manage their finances are much better for the economy.

Council for Economic Education. (2020). Survey of the states. Retrieved from: https://www.councilforeconed.org/survey-of-the-states-2020/

JumpStart Coalition. (2017). National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education. Retrieved from: https://www.jumpstart.org/what-we-do/support-financial-education/standards/

Keshner, A. (2019). North Carolina is 20th state to require financial literacy class for high schoolers. Market Watch. Retrieved from: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/more-states-consider-mandatory-financial-literacy-classes-as-high-school-students-struggle-with-basic-budgeting-2019-06-19

The Motley Fool. (2019). How financially lit(erate) is your state? The Ascent. Retrieved from: https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/financial-literacy-by-state/

Yaspan, A. (2020). Florida’s partial victory. Council for Economic Education. Retrieved from: https://www.councilforeconed.org/2020/02/05/floridas-partial-victory/

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