Most high schools don’t offer personal finance classes. Sure, there are math classes. In my high school, economics was a required class. However, the information is presented in an abstract way. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for students to understand how these details apply to their own lives.
In fact, we have all heard students say, “I’ll never need to use this.” As an adult, I can look back and see the truth in that. Of course, we do use math every day. However, we rarely use the kind of math that we learned in school. When we do use it, it’s not obvious.
Personal Finance: A High School Class
What if high schools specifically offered a personal finance class? It would teach math and organizational skills. However, it would do so in ways that are practical and useful. Moreover, students would learn the basics of budgeting, loan interest, and simple investments.
Students need this information. Personal finance is a tool that each one of us must learn. If we don’t learn it early then we can make mistakes that affect us for years, even decades, to come. If we do learn early, then we might be able to avoid those mistakes.
High school students are about to enter a world where they have to deal with money in a very real way. As young adults, they may go straight to work. If so, then they need to learn how to budget their minimal income. On the other hand, they may head to college. They’ll be offered loans and credit cards. If they don’t know personal finance, then they can easily rack up a lot of debt.
In either case, the student benefits from a personal finance class in high school. They could learn about money as it applies to their real, immediate lives. Moreover, they could learn early on why it’s so important to care about personal finance.
Should Personal Finance Classe Be Mandatory?
According to a financial education survey by the Council for Economic Education (CEE), approximately 1/3 of the states in the US require personal finance classes for high school students. The other 2/3 of the states do not. Moreover, only five of the states that require personal finance classes mandate that this must be a stand-alone class.
However, that could change soon. There are bills proposed in many states across the nation. If passed, they would make these classes mandatory.
For example, in Florida, there is a proposed bill called the Dorothy Hukill Financial Literacy Act. If it passes, it will change the graduation requirements for high school students in that state. Before graduating, students would need to take 1/2 credit in “personal financial literacy and money management.” While half credit isn’t much, it’s something.
Arizona, Texas, Rhode Island, and South Carolina are among the states that also have similar bill proposals.
Millennials Say Personal Finance Education is Important
The millennial generation is already out of high school. However, their experience is helping to drive these bills. Many of them have come forward to admit that they don’t know enough about personal finance. According to the aforementioned CEE report:
- 75% of college students with credit cards are unaware of late fees
- At least 50% of millennials live paycheck-to-paycheck
- Over 40% of this group uses expensive loan options such as payday loans
- 40% of millennials are “overwhelmed with debt”
Frighteningly, this same report says that less than 20% of teachers feel competent to teach a personal finance class. However, that alone indicates the desperate need for this education.
What do you think – should personal finance classes be mandatory in high school?