How U.S. Students Gain Financial Literacy


By Lauren Monsen

U.S. educators are adding personal finance classes to school curriculums.

According to the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance, recently more U.S. states have required students in grades 9–12 to learn how to handle money and manage a budget.

Because most school policy in the U.S. is set at the state or county level, not the national level, requirements can vary. But Washington-based nonprofit Jump$tart and the Council for Economic Education co-publish the National Standards for Personal Finance Education (PDF, 494KB), which schools may use as a starting point and which helps make financial courses across school districts relatively consistent.

Offering the courses in underserved communities — where parents might not have the experience to teach their children about financial decisions — improves equity, according to Laura Levine, who directs Jump$tart’s conglomeration of businesses, finance experts, government agencies and institutions of higher education that promotes financial literacy among students.

“By introducing these students to a financial system they may not have previously been exposed to, giving them reliable information and offering them a chance to develop critical thinking skills, we can help prepare them to make smart financial decisions throughout their lives,” she said.

Starting early

While many financial literacy courses are aimed at teenagers, younger students can also benefit.

“Financial education in elementary [primary] school — starting even before kindergarten — is essential for young children as they are forming their behaviors and beliefs,” Levine says. She expects it to make savvy consumers of the next generation.

Next Gen, based in California, provides free personal finance curriculum and professional development to more than 30,000 middle and high school teachers in the United States.

Lesson plans include how to manage a checking account; save, invest or pay for college; understanding consumer credit; behavioral economics; entrepreneurship; philanthropy; taxes; insurance; ethics; and cryptocurrency.

Jodie Holmquist, a business teacher at Hinsdale Middle High School in New Hampshire, recently reported: “Right now, I am watching my first-period personal finance students as they work on the ‘budgeting with roommates’ activity. I wish you could see them. They are all thoroughly engaged in discussions about rent, food and parking. … I always enjoy this activity, as it gets the students thinking about real-world issues.”

Financial education can touch parents as well as their kids, as Anna Takahashi, director of college counseling at Eastside College Preparatory School in California, learned from one mother who told her that on their daily commute home in the evening her son was reteaching her concepts from class. “Clearly her son saw the practical value of the lessons and wanted his mother to better handle the family finances,” Takahashi said.

Previously Published on share.america


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