Personal Finance in Schools

by David Sung

As students graduate from high school, many find that they are not properly equipped to manage personal finances, such as balancing a checkbook or managing a credit card. Currently, most U.S. states are not required to teach students personal finance. A debate over mandatory personal finance curriculum in schools, and how the subject should be taught has been brewing for the past decade.

Surveys show high school students and most Americans don’t understand the most basic financial concepts. Jump$tart Coalition has been conducting surveys to measure the financial literacy levels of high school students since 1997. Their 2008 survey revealed that nearly 75 percent of high school students failed their personal finance quiz, which is quite surprising.

Proponents of increased personal finance education believe that students need to understand the very basics of personal finance before they reach the end of their high school careers and begin adulthood. Some critics of the debate suggest that requiring students to take additional math classes will help improve their number skills and roll over into money management, and skills should be taught as they’re needed such as learning about mortgages.

Currently, only Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia require high school students to pass a personal finance course in order to graduate. Though only four states have adopted a required personal finance course, many other states are moving in a similar direction. According to a white paper from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), policymakers in 22 states have enacted laws requiring high school students to take economics classes, and 13 states have required students to take a personal finance course or an economics course with personal finance curriculum in order to graduate.  The CFPB recommends teaching personal finance to students of all grade levels, not just high school students.

The personal finance in schools movement has started to catch on in schools across the country. Beginning this May, Oklahoma schools will be required to teach high school students to manage their finances and demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of loans, investing, taxes and insurance among other financial topics.

The NFL and Visa have even taken teaching the fundamentals of personal finance in the classroom into their own hands with their development of a videogame called Financial Football. This financial football video game is free to students and relates the popular sport to the not so popular subject, by prompting students to answer personal finance and money management questions in order to move their team down the field and score a touchdown.  The game was introduced in Alabama by the Heisman trophy winner and New Orleans Saints running back, Mark Ingram, and is now available in 41 states.

Do you feel that you were prepared to manage your finances after high school, and how do you feel about students today learning about the subject in school? Leave a comment and let us know!

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