There a growing call for improved financial literacy among young Americans, as Millennials face a growing financial crisis prompted by overwhelming student debt.
“The level of financial literacy is low in the U.S. and consumers are paying the price,” according to a recent report by Mintel, an international market research company. “The ramifications of this to consumers are obvious, and fortunately many consumers realize that they don’t know enough and are interested in learning more.”
To help consumers improve their understanding of concepts such as interest, budgeting, credit, and investment basics, Mintel says financial institutions are working to develop literacy programs.”
But financial literacy experts say the place to start is the nation’s schools, where very few states mandate the teaching of the subject in middle or high schools.
While American policymakers grapple with the coming disaster as people retire with little or no savings, it’s easy to point to a lack of financial literacy as the root cause. (The median working-age couple has saved only $5,000 for their retirement, according to an analysis of the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances by economist Monique Morrissey of the Economic Policy Institute.) It is not unusual for a student to graduate college without understanding credit or how to open a checking account.
Meanwhile, the 2015 National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools, the most recent study available on the subject, gave just five states a grade of A – Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. A whopping 12 states received grades of F – Alaska, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. Twenty states received a B, 11 received a C and 3 states received D grades.
That all leads to an interesting question. Exactly when should you begin to teach your children about finances.
Several financial advisors say it is never too young. In fact, one specialized public school on the South Side of Chicago, the Ariel Academy, teaches children about personal finance starting in the Kindergarten, and teaches them about trading stocks beginning in the third grade. That school was founded by John Rogers, president of Ariel Investments, and former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Advisor David Evans, of Evans Financial Group in Shreveport, La., education in financial literacy starts at home.
Evens says his son, Colin, who now works with him in the business, never asked him for money as a youngster.
“When he was little he started mowing lawns,” Evans says. “He found out that at 14 years old he can make a lot of money mowing lawns.”
He taught Colin about saving in three cans. One can was for buying things for himself. The second was for saving (40% to 50% of what he earned.) “A kid 14 doesn’t need to be spending $60 a week on tons of cassettes,” he says. The third can was for the church.
“When it came time for a car, he had enough to pay for half the car and I paid for the other half,” Evans says. “A neighbor was selling a boat. He was able to buy it out of his own savings.”
Evans and his son exemplify the fact that children are never too young to learn financial literacy. Colin, in turn, is teaching his seven year old daughter about financial literacy through her lemonade stand. And now he’s writing a book on financial literacy for children, The Three Jars, Evans says.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any specific tax, legal, or financial advice.