Financial Planning

Why aren’t students getting financially smarter?

FinanceThis just in: Americans don't know jack about personal finance.

OK, we already knew that. But according the Associated Press, the problem is worse than we thought, at least among young Americans.

High school seniors who took a recent financial literacy quiz offered by the Jump$tart Coalition correctly answered only 48.3 percent of the questions. That's down from 52.4 percent last year. There's a bit of good news: College students scored higher than high schoolers, but this was the first year they were tested.

"The financial preparedness of our nation's youth is essential to their well-being and of vital importance to our economic future," Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke said of the survey.

Then Bernanke added what I think is one of the most insightful comments I've heard recently on the subject of financial literacy: "Today, only eight states across the U.S. require personal finance before middle or high school graduation. I believe more states should consider making personal finance a requirement for all students who seek a high school diploma. I am personally convinced that improving education is vital to the future of our economy and all its citizens, and I strongly believe that promoting financial literacy, in particular, must be a high priority."

I couldn't agree more. Educators are supposed to be giving students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, and if they ignore personal finance, our schools are failing in that mission. If Americans can't manage their own personal finances, they put so much in jeopardy -- their credit rating, their financial stability, their retirement. Likewise, the opposite is true: If they've been taught how to manage their finances, their futures are so much brighter.

And yes, parents must do their part by practicing financial responsibility at home. But I'd argue that personal finance is as important as any other skill set students are learning in school today. Why isn't it an educational requirement?

What do you think? Should schools be required to teach personal finance?


Bill Sheridan