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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Why personal finance should be taught in school

Why personal finance should be taught in school


When you think back on your school career, a lot of different things are likely to come to mind. Maybe you remember math formulas or SAT scores. Perhaps it’s the name of your prom date or your first teacher to give you a detention. One thing you may not recall, though, are lessons about money. That’s because most of us were never taught personal finance in school.

In fact, Empower’s Money Talks research indicates that over 60% of Americans never learned about money in school. While things might seem bleak based on that stat, things are changing. Now that many more people understand the benefits of including financial literacy in school, there is a bigger push to require students to learn about money before graduation.

Let’s explore how this change is coming about. Then if you’re ready, we’ve got a homework assignment for you to help push for financial literacy in schools near you.

The state of financial literacy in schools

Sharifah Munis, Founder of NewWave Foundation, says that a lot of schools don’t currently teach personal finance. Or if they do, she says, “They don’t teach it in a way that is generally very action oriented.” That means that many times, the money lessons that are being taught are too abstract to be memorable.

Without basic financial literacy, Munis says that many young people go out into the world, opening credit cards and taking out significant loans without really understanding how any of these basic financial principles work. It’s no wonder then that so many adults find themselves feeling behind when it comes to money know-how.

The benefits of financial literacy education

More schools are starting to adopt personal finance curriculum and include money classes in their graduation requirements. That shouldn’t surprise us because there are benefits of financial literacy education.

Melanie Mortimer, President of the SIFMA Foundation, says that personal finance can really captivate young people. By helping them understand and connect with the real world, school can take on a new meaning. When you take teaching tools like the Stock Market Game, you get young people that aren’t just learning about money. They’re excited, engaged, and interested in it as well, says Mortimer.

Teaching personal finance in schools doesn’t mean kids and teens won’t make money mistakes. It means that the financial mistakes won’t be as devastating. Many of today’s adults learned about money the hard way. Some of us felt the impact of our financial mistakes for years or even decades. By exposing students to money concepts early on, they can learn – and make mistakes – when the stakes are much lower.

Including personal finance in schools is important for another reason as well. While we can hope that these concepts are something that families talk about at home, we know that’s not always the case. Many of us are raised thinking money is taboo. We didn’t talk about it growing up, so we don’t know how to talk about it now. When schools equip their staff with resources and curriculum, they can get accurate information out to students who may not be able to access the information in other ways.

More states are betting on financial literacy for kids

Yanley Espinal, Director of Educational Outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance and content creator, is on a mission to get more schools talking about money. As of 2023, there are 22 states with semester-long personal finance graduation requirements.

Foundations like Next Gen Personal Finance aim to get all 50 states on board. That way, all young people can be exposed to some basic money concepts. That means that when young people enter the working world or go off to college, they will already have a basic understanding of compounding, budgets, spending, saving, and more.

Tips for people to advocate for personal finance in schools

Before you tag the president on Twitter or call your senator, you should know there are probably better ways to push for personal finance in schools. You can use these tips to help push for change in your community. If you want young people in your life to learn more about personal finance, here’s how you can help.

Read the rules

Many states actually have made moves to integrate money into their curriculum. Don’t assume that your experience a decade or more removed is still the norm for today. You should also avoid overly relying on social media and memes. Instead, go straight to the source.

You can do a Google search to see your state plus personal finance requirements. You might see that some states actually require standalone coursework on personal finance as part of a graduation requirement. In other cases, you will see that different subject areas like social studies are now incorporating finance standards.

By looking at what is currently required by your state, you can be more informed when you make your request.

Know your neighbors

It’s also really helpful to share examples of what is happening in other schools. One of the most frequent – and valid – concerns about adding more to the school day is that there is already so much happening.

But if you can speak about a neighboring school district or a nearby state that is finding ways to integrate money talks in the classroom, that makes a compelling case. The more concrete examples you can offer, the less pushback you should receive.

Start local

After you’ve done your homework by reading about your current state requirements and looking at samples of how personal finance is being taught, you’re ready to make your request. Remember to start local. Most change in education actually takes place in small pockets first.

That’s why reaching out to your local school board is a great starting point. Taxpayers are stakeholders in their local schools. Oftentimes, though, you may not realize how much of an impact you have.

In many cases, adults in the community can be very involved in the curriculum adoption process. That means that you can give input on and review the new curriculum. Many times, school districts look for feedback but don’t have many takers.

See if there are curriculum reviews happening. If there aren’t, you can still reach out to local school board members and the school superintendent. Share your ideas and why you think personal finance in schools is important. You can also offer to help address roadblocks. For instance, maybe you can solicit community feedback or find ways to show them this is what the community values.

Final thoughts

It’s true that personal finance is personal. Our journeys often look very different since they start in different places and have different goals.

But there are basic fundamental financial skills that make a strong foundation for most people’s money journeys. Incorporating personal finance in schools would be one way to help set young people up for future success.

By teaching them basic money concepts from an early age, they can build that literacy as they grow. After graduation day, they will be able to call upon basic principles to help set them up for a lifetime of financial success no matter where their journey takes them.


Andy Hill, AFC®


Andy Hill, AFC®, is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage, Kids, and Money, a platform dedicated to helping young families build wealth and happiness.

Author is not a client of Empower Advisory Group, LLC, and is compensated as a freelance writer.

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