Parents can’t be the only ones teaching our kids about finance

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Some people reject financial education in schools because they believe that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about money – and, frankly, it should be. But what about the children whose parents or guardians do not have the personal financial ability or experience to adequately educate their children? Where can they learn the basics of personal finance?

As we increasingly focus our attention on improving financial equity and inclusion, financial education in schools will play an important role in leveling the playing field for future generations of American consumers, particularly those students growing up in historically underserved communities. By introducing these students to a financial system they may not have been exposed to before, giving them reliable information, and giving them opportunities to develop critical thinking, we can help them make wise financial decisions throughout their lives.

Public support is widespread. 88% of adults in a recent National Endowment for Financial Education survey said their state should require either a semester or year-long financial education course for the degree, and 80% wish they had required a semester or year-long course during of high school.

More states are adding requirements, with Georgia becoming the latest to mandate a personal finance course in high school earlier this week. In March, Florida became the largest state to require personal finance in high school.

While financial education is vital in the classroom for disadvantaged students, it is valuable for everyone. Well-qualified educators with access to up-to-date curriculum resources are often best prepared to teach the many facets and ever-evolving elements of personal finance.

The Jump$tart Coalition believes that all students deserve an effective financial education at all levels of school. While we enthusiastically welcome efforts in many states to make financial literacy a requirement for college degrees, we also believe it needs to start sooner. Financial literacy in elementary school—starting before kindergarten—is essential for young children as it shapes their behaviors and beliefs. And financial literacy is critical for all middle school students, especially those who are most vulnerable to dropping out.

The financial literacy community has never proposed education as a solution to financial well-being per se. Rather, we believe it is a critical component when paired with equitable access to adequate products and services, sound consumer protections, and ethical financial professionals. In turn, the community works together — often through the Jump$tart Coalition — to provide quality resources and information, teacher training, educational standards, and more to ensure financial education is effective in classrooms across the country.

So parents have a responsibility to educate their children if they are able; But more importantly, just talk to them about money, lead by example in your own financial decisions, and make sure financial education is included in their school’s curriculum. With April being Financial Literacy Month, now is the time.

By Laura Levine, President and CEO of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy

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Jane Marczewski

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