We are moving towards a world with more access to technology, education, and knowledge. Wikipedia is just a click away. Google is at our fingertips. Yet, more and more students lack financial education. And this is a major problem.
Many states do not mandate financial literacy courses. I know some states (only a handful) require their students to have taken years and years of personal finance-related courses, even starting in first grade. However, California does not require financial literacy education. Why?
There are a few issues with mandating classes, I suppose. First, you would need more teachers. Teachers are underpaid and there are not so many of them anymore. It would be hard finding teachers who are qualified to teach financial literacy. But - I believe any teacher can teach personal finance. It's not a course specifically for teachers with a background in mathematics or economics. I believe Biology teachers can teach it. Government teachers. Chemistry, US History, language.
I also suppose that students and parents alike would complain about the extra course. In my school, students are allowed 6-7 periods (maybe some can take 8 if they take zero and seventh period, but this is rare.) If you force students to take a financial literacy class, maybe that would take away an elective they wanted to take, like AP Computer Science or AP Environmental Science or Digital Imaging or Guitar 1. But there are options for financial literacy courses even in our tight schedule. In my school, freshmen have to take a Health class, and it lasts only one semester. The other semester, students are put into Common Core Skills, Introduction to Computers, Art Spectrum, or some other semester course. Instead of placing students into these classes, I do not see why the school doesn't have students take a semester-long financial literacy course. The problem is that it would be in ninth grade when students are still far from graduating into adulthood.
So there definitely are disadvantages of mandating personal finance classes in high school. A lot of schools face imminent budget cuts, and perhaps do not have the monetary resources. Students might not want to give up another class. Parents would riot.
But the benefits of financial literacy are so important. To me, it is unsettling sending seventeen-year-olds out into the adult world (college or trade or even just life in general) without giving them help. How many graduates actually understand how credit scores work? Do they know where to go to find their score reports? Do they know how loans work, and how to calculate formulas related to expenses? Do they know how to track expenses, how to reconcile the bank statement and the check register ...
Do students actually know what they are doing?
Perhaps some do. Some who know how to drive a car and buy at Costco and fill up gas. Perhaps some have their own bank accounts and credit cards and know how to comparison shop.
But the majority of students do not.
So we are sending the future - the brightest minds of the next generation - into a confusing world with very little experience or knowledge. And we wonder why some of them make bad decisions. What can we do ...?
I strongly urge you - as parents, guardians, caretakers, even students - to learn and teach financial literacy. Learn it yourself if you have to. And teach it to others. This knowledge is not as complex as the quadratic formula or gas laws. But it is so much more important and not to mention applicable in the real world. You won't be solving 4x=390, but you will be handling your finances ...
So, I implore of you, take matters into your own hands. Teach it to your children. And if you are a student yourself, learn it right away. There are invaluable resources online and in libraries. Learn how the world works. Learn about retirement, spending, saving, credit, payments, taxes. Because if you want to succeed in the future - sure, an MBA will help. A bachelor's will help, and so will a master's. But if you don't have financial literacy, then no degree will help prepare you for the real world.
That is why financial literacy matters, and why I myself am so passionate about this subject. As today's youth, we deserve to dive into the future with good and common sense - especially when it comes to finances and life management.