Money Conversations: Financial Education. Who is Responsible?
Trigonometry, English literature, science, art… these are a few core subjects, required to graduate from high school. There is no doubt that these subjects are very important to be well-rounded. Yet, to their vast surprise, most graduates find themselves doing fine without ever again applying a Pythagorean theorem or reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets. Sadly, what most discover themselves to be unprepared for is facing the challenge of managing money, the art you cannot do without in the modern world.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the median age of moving out of home is 19 years old, that is within a year of graduating high school. So here is one very common scenario: a teenager becomes independent and now faces having to juggle college, a job, paying bills and, hopefully, being able to afford meals more nutritional than Ramen noodles. It’s true that a lot of parents still partially or fully support their offspring while in college, but just imagine how much drama and headache could have been avoided if the teen had the proper tools and was equipped to face this type of challenge.
Here are some more alarming statistics. National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators reports that up to 45% of college students lack financial literacy after conducting a survey among 110,000 college kids. While 90% of students said they had experience with a bank account, only 59% admitted to having checked their balance in the past year, and less than 40% ever created or tried to follow a budget. 60% have taken or were planning to take out student loans. 36% already had credit card balances over $1,000. Talking about credit cards, college students remain the biggest target market of credit card companies. Even after the CARDS Act of 2010 which limited the ability of credit card companies to partner with schools and prohibited offering tangible rewards and soliciting cards to students without their consent, a lot of cash-starved students get lured by the quick access to cash and promises of rebates. Today young people aged between 18 and 23 years old have an average debt balance of $9,593 as reported by CNBC news agency. That translates into $1.1 trillion dollars collectively.
“There’s a growing push for students to get personal financial education in high school. But, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, that might not be early enough.” – CNBC news reported a few months ago. “When I talk to students now, they talk about the need for financial literacy learning in a practical sense — how to look at debt and how to plan for a financially secure future,” Cardona told CNBC’s Sharon Epperson in an interview. While states and local boards — and not the federal Education Department — control curriculums, the group is still trying to promote financial literacy instruction at an early level, Cardona said.”
It may take years for the government officials to figure out how to get financial education on the school curriculum, but for our kids the clock is ticking. Kids grow up in a blink of an eye. It is our responsibility as parents to educate ourselves and pass the principles of financial management on to our kids.
There are a lot of things schools won’t teach: manners, common sense, spirituality to name a few. Yet those things are important to be successful in life. Frugality and financial discipline are no exception. And even if we ourselves are not always knowledgeable in all the different areas, one thing we can try to instill in our children is the zeal for knowledge and self-development. The ability to think critically, holding yourself accountable for your own decisions and the willingness to learn and improve may be just the set of keys they need for success in any situation.