Only 33% of adults are financially literate, meaning they have an understanding of basic financial concepts. This is largely due to the lack of financial education that is taking place in early schooling, according to the Global Financial Literacy Survey.
Given the fundamental importance of understanding personal finance today, there needs to be a greater emphasis placed on educating children about how money works and how to manage it properly. Implementing finance courses into primary schools’ core curricula would significantly affect the future development of the world’s next generation.
This year, millennials are starting their careers with a combined $1.52 trillion in debt, largely due to student loans. In 2018, Nearly half of Americans didn’t have the financial means to cover a $400 emergency. 33% of Americans have nothing saved for retirement as of 2016.
Money is the biggest motivator in society, but the idea of money and the management of it stresses most people out. Everyone wants to be financially stable, but most people don’t know how to get there.
Another survey found that 81% of parents think it is their responsibility to educate their children about personal finance, despite both parents being employed in the majority of U.S. households. Most parents don’t have the time to take on the role of financial educator, just like most don’t have the time to take on the role of an academic educator.
The overall lack of financial understanding facing the U.S. will only be resolved by implementing financial education starting in primary school and continuing through high school. Personal finance education should be a cumulative process, where age-appropriate topics are taught each school year.
Children aged 5-6 are developmentally ready for simple money management practices such as saving, according to a Social Welfare journal from the University of Kansas. However, the most emphasis on financial education should be placed in middle school and high school.
Firstly, even though an early introduction to financial concepts is important, older children are more likely to understand basic financial concepts and how to strategize their own money management over time, The Atlantic’s Kelly Dilworth wrote in a 2015 article. For example, an 11- or 12-year-old may want to buy a new pair of swimming goggles and is capable of planning out the amount of allowance she needs to set aside each week in order to have the goggles before the end-of-the-year pool party at school.
Secondly, this time of a child’s life should be used in preparation for the next chapter, which has a huge impact on future personal development. This is college in most cases, but can also mean entering the workforce. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 69% of students enrolled into college after high school, leaving the remaining 31% to enter the workforce directly – this substantial population is offered no more time beyond high school to learn how to live a financially independent life.The importance of financial literacy at this age is crucial, as in both cases poor financial management decisions can lead to serious and life altering situations regarding personal debt.
Only 17 states in the U.S. require any sort of personal finance course be taken to graduate from high school, while only 22 states require that it be offered at all, even as an elective.
Understanding the basics of finance starting in primary school will prepare the next generation for the financial decisions they will make in the future.