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Curriculum & Instruction        < Previous        Next >


Financial Literacy


Q. My friends with kids in college are all mad at the schools for not teaching kids more about managing money, forming a personal budget, balancing a checking account, knowing what the paycheck deductions are, knowing the differences between debit cards and credit cards, how those charges you rack up don't just go away, the wisdom of socking savings away every month, and so forth. Should educators bear the blame for this, or did we parents blow this one?


To be fair, both. Young people's financial know-how has gone from bad to worse, according to a nationwide survey released in 2008 by the Federal Reserve Board and the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. That's scary, considering all the challenging financial issues of life in our world today, from adjustable-rate mortgages to dealing with insurance complexities to retirement planning that should start in your 20s.


On the survey, high school seniors answered correctly only 48.3 percent of questions about personal finance and economics. That was even lower than the 52.4 percent in the previous survey in 2006, the worst score out of the six surveys conducted so far.


Only 16.8 percent of the seniors correctly answered that stocks likely would offer the higher growth over 18 years of saving for a child's education, while 37.3 percent thought a U.S. savings bond, one of the most conservative investments, would offer the highest growth.


But things may be changing. Nearly all the states include requirements for economics education in their statewide learning standards, though only a handful mandate a personal finance course as a graduation requirement, according to the National Council on Economics Education. See the NCEE's curriculum on


Junior Achievement ( volunteers nationwide are going in to schools and helping make students financially literate. Local credit unions, bank associations and other finance-related businesses are offering continuing education and pointers to teachers to work financial education into their lesson plans in the already-overcrowded school day.


The National Endowment for Financial Education ( has been formed in Greenwood Village, Colo., working with the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. It sponsors a financial planning curriculum for 800,000 students in more than 8,400 high schools. The group providers free materials and interactive lessons for student and adult consumer education.


Parents can and should insist that their local schools do as much to educate students about money as they do about nutrition, exercise and other elements of everyday adult life that a well-rounded, educated person should master.



Homework: See the website of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy:



By Susan Darst Williams Curriculum 08 2008


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