Teaching the financial ABCs

Jan. 3, 2016, 2:26 p.m. | By Zewde Ingram | 8 years, 4 months ago

Financial Literacy Courses should be required in MCPS

After graduation, teenagers are cast out of the classroom bubble and into a grand, sweeping abyss of finances - student loans, if college bound, or taxes and bills, if entering the workforce. To most teens, finance is an alien topic comprised of tiresome responsibility and perplexing forms. High school is when people learn basic finance but their knowledge is typically gained from outside the classroom. Most teens hold their first job, spend money and file taxes while in high school. However, ask most teens to define 401k or a dividend and the reply will most likely be a blank stare. As adulthood nears, teens become more anxious to decode the complexities of finance but have no resources to do so. Mandatory financial literacy classes are key to ensuring that youth have adequate knowledge to make responsible financial decisions after high school.

Montgomery County should require financial literacy classes. Photo courtesy of Personal Finance Insider.

In the United States, only 17 states require high school students take courses that include personal finance instruction. Maryland is not one of them. In 2008 the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy wrote the following in the Annual Report to the President; "Today's schoolchildren are ill-equipped to understand personal finance and make their way in the modern financial world. Their rising debt and debt problem substantiate what the test scores show. Meanwhile, most students still graduate from high school without any formal classroom education in personal finance." This statement is a dead-on characterization of where this nation's youth are in their comprehension of finances. In an assessment conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2014 on 29,000 15 year-olds from around the world, the U.S. ranked 9th out of 18 nations in terms of financial literacy. The lack of financial literacy is particularly concerning because, in just a few years, these students will be taking out loans and paying rent.

Montgomery County Public Schools currently offers the year-long course Quantitative Literacy Mathematics, a mathematical elective course that teaches students about finance. Students enrolled in the course investigate saving, investing, budgeting, checking and savings accounts, bonds, certificates of deposit, retirement accounts, annuities, social security, and the stock market. Additionally, students investigate loans and credit. This course is offered at Blair, however it is not mandatory. Although this course should be mandatory in order to educate students on finance, it should at least be more widely encouraged and advertised. Understanding finances is a tool that students truly wish to learn. To combat the lack of financial literacy amongst high school students, Wheaton High School Students recently created an elective course, Life 101, to focus on practical skills for adulthood such as considering housing options, nutrition, filing for taxes, banking and borrowing.
Implementing mandatory financial literacy classes nationwide is critical for producing financially responsible citizens. Knowing how to navigate finances can reduce the stress that often accompany economic decisions, and can even reduce stress and anxiety associated with money. Also, proper education can help students avoid poor financial decisions with devastating consequences in the future.

Overall, when teens leave high school and eventually enter the workforce they will be more confident and aware of their finances. The structure of our current economy requires that students receive four years or more of college to be hired for many jobs. Ironically, those entering the workforce are expected to be productive members of society without even a basic understanding of finance. Personal Finance may be one of the most useful classes a student will ever take in high school, as it is one regardless of occupation, a student will utilize in their future.

Tags: finance Life 101 Quantitative literacy Wheaton High School

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