Money Management Coursework should be High School Requirement, Financial Professionals Say
Recent research by the National Financial Educators Council revealed that the majority of young adults aged 18-24 claim money management would have been the high school-level coursework that would have benefited their lives the most. Yet few – if any – public schools make financial education a priority. We asked financial professionals to weigh in on whether they believed comprehensive money management courses would offer greater benefits to students post-graduation than current core subject requirements (i.e. math, science, and social studies).
Jason Vitug, founder of Phroogal.com, believes youth can be taught a personal finance course at a young age. “This is important because ‘money is not purpose. Money is a tool to live your purpose,’” Vitug explains, “And no one will have a more vested interest in your financial well-being than yourself. If you want to live that life you’ve dreamed, than it’s up to you to make that happen. It’s going to require you to make better financial decisions and that’s only going to happen when you increase your understanding of personal finance.” In fact, Vitug finds no “conclusive reason why financial education isn’t a graduation requirement in all high schools and colleges. I believe it should be…perhaps comprehensive money management courses will provide high school grads with the knowledge and tools to avoid the traps I fell into once in college.”
The lack of basic financial education for high school and college-aged young people is astounding to Scott Vance of Trisuli Financial Advising. “In my mind,” Vance says, “The lack of financial knowledge will handicap them the rest of their lives.” However, Vance continues, traditional classroom teaching may not be the best approach. “I think that if financial management would be taught as a part of a larger life skills course
Kelly Shikany of Lakeside Wealth Management offers further recommendations for the topics of instruction from which kids would benefit most. “Learning the art of cash flow management and how to save…would be very beneficial to all students,” Shikany explains. “It is no secret that the amount of student loan debt impacts the ability of the next generation to partake in home ownership, having children, getting married and other steps to adulting…which they may or may not want to partake in. But wealth creation does require the ability to spend LESS than you make,” she adds.
“Let’s face it,” comments Rocky Lalvani of Richer Soul, “We spend 13 years in K-12 to get into a good college and spend four more years plus possibly grad school for the sole purpose of getting a good job and earning lots of money. Yet throughout those 17+ years no one ever teaches you the basics of money management.” Lalvani goes on to explain that those who make $32,000 annually fall into the top 1% of income earners worldwide, while earning six figures places us into the top 1/10%. “How is it we have so much and [yet] everyone is broke or struggling?” asks Lalvani. “If we are going to spend so much time learning to earn money, don’t you think we should spend some of that time learning how money works?”
Ilene Davis of Financial Independence says she is delighted to see the NFEC’s survey results: “Maybe young people are wiser than I realized,” she says. “The fact is that without understanding how to manage money, even the most successful income earner can end up broke and dependent on charity or government for their daily needs, yet just understanding compound interest, and starting an investment program, could make all the difference in the world in their future financial INDEPENDENCE.” Shay Olivarria of Bigger Than Your Block adds that youth need to become smart consumers: “Most students are interested in money by high school but don’t get information about marketing, value, investing and retirement planning that early. I like to say that I know they are getting it once they start getting upset. When they realize that product placement encourages them to buy things that they don’t want, they look at TV shows, movies and videos differently. Once they understand how value works in relation to cost, they start paying attention in stores.” Olivarria claims financial education will help youth build their long-term futures as well. “After they know about how the stock market works and how easy it is to invest in mutual funds using dollar cost averaging and compound interest, they are blown away. By the time we talk about retirement investing, they understand the advantage they have using time to leverage the money they have. It really is beautiful to see.”
According to Andrew Housser of Freedom Financial Network, money management courses in school not only would be beneficial, but are critical to the future of our students and our nation’s economy. “Managing finances is not an inborn skill,” Housser suggests, “But something that each person must learn – just like math, reading and writing. Today, few if any schools even offer classes to help students learn these finance skills.” Housser also cautions that if youth are not taught money skills in school, they will learn those skills elsewhere. “Many people learn what they know about personal finance from a friend. That friend often will be communicating facts as the trust when the reality is that those ‘facts’ are far from correct. It is like learning golf from a friend – it is going to result in a lot of pain and suffering as you spend the next several years trying to unlearn bad habits.”
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