Financial Literacy: Starting the Conversation

November 25, 2013

Remember some of the useless classes you took in junior high school?  For me this included archery (loved it), and sewing (hated it).  I mean, unless I wanted to go all Ted Nugent and become a hunting purist, or perhaps rival Katniss in the Hunger Games a few decades into the future, exactly how useful were archery skills to my impending adulthood?  Sewing would have been much more valuable, but alas, much to my mother’s dismay, it just wasn’t for me.

Yet what is still very sadly lacking in our education curriculum is adequate preparation in personal finances.  How many 18-year olds come out of high school knowing how to plan and manage a budget?  How about understanding how costly and damaging excess credit debt can be, or how to shop wisely for a car?  As a nation we have seriously under-prepared our kids to resist the myth that every young person deserves a six-figure job, a new Lexus, and a luxury loft.

As a young woman I was lucky to have a father and older brother who taught me the value of retirement savings and the basics of investing.  When I terminated employment from my first” real” job and had a small 401(k) balance, I didn’t cash it in for a shopping spree as some twenty-something’s might be tempted to do.  Instead, I bought some investing magazines and researched mutual fund companies.  It’s probably not so surprising that eventually I went into the investment industry as a career.

While most people are not financial geeks like me, a common sense grasp of the basics of personal finance is a necessity to getting a good head start for today’s young adults.  Yet currently there are only four states that require at least one semester of a dedicated personal finance course to graduate high school (Colorado is attempting to amp it up as we speak).  Many other states are beginning to incorporate some personal finance education into other broader coursework.  But still more than half of our states require no personal finance curriculum at all.

Additional Resources

Luckily, there are some great organizations out there helping to fill the gap and support our teachers, parents and kids in the quest for personal finance education.   Below is a list of a few.  Check them out, attend an event, and donate if you can, or lend a hand through volunteering.  Let’s increase the chances that the adults of tomorrow can manage the budget of our country, or at least their own household.

Colorado Council for Economic Education offers plenty of teacher resources, and has a cool investment simulation stock market experience for youth grades 3 to 12.

Young Americans Center for Financial Education offers free classes for youth, parents and teachers.

Jump$tart Colorado (part of a national coalition) is aimed at raising the financial literacy of Colorado’s youth.

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This post was written by Lisa Bishop, the Director of Customer Service at Colorado PERA.

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