Beyond Checks & Credit Cards: What Our Kids Need to Know About Personal Finance
Updated: Jul 30
Florida is back in the news this week which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. They are probably one of the few states that has continued to dominate the headlines over the last two years. However, this week the focus was on a new high school graduation requirement.
New legislation is being proposed in Florida which would require high school students to take a financial literacy test in order to graduate. Students would receive one-half credit for courses in personal financial literacy and money management.
After reading about their proposed courses, I reflected a bit on when and how I learned about personal finance. Math was always one of my favorite subjects, so much that I have my undergraduate degree in mathematics. But knowing how to solve a math problem is a far cry from basic personal finance like understanding how credit scores are calculated, managing debt and completing a loan application.
I think most of my lessons in personal finance were trial and error. And perhaps initially there was more error than things done right, as I learned the hard way about credit card interest rates and bounced check fees!
So what can we do (as parents) to help develop financial literacy in our kids?
When Financial Literacy Became a Priority
If we look beyond Florida, there’s actually twenty five states which now require students to take a semester of personal finance before they graduate from high school. However, this is the result of several laws passed last year. Prior to 2020, there were only ten states with this requirement.
So what exactly is financial literacy? And why has it suddenly (or perhaps slowly) become a focus of many high school programs?
In 2008, President Bush created the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. The Council was created in response to the 2008 financial crisis as it highlighted a critical need for improved financial knowledge and access to better financial products and services in the U.S..
The Council established the following definition of financial literacy -
Financial literacy is defined as “the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being.”
One of the many recommendations in the 2008 Annual Report to the President was to “expand and improve financial education for students from kindergarten through post-secondary education.”
Now you might be wondering (as I am) why it has taken so long for an idea proposed in 2008 to finally see itself come to fruition in our schools in 2022. But I haven’t found an answer to that question yet. It does seem to support the reputation our education system has for adapting to change, slowly.
Financial Literacy in Schools
We can take a look at how schools define financial literacy by digging into the proposed legislation in Florida. Their bill (SB 1054) proposes instruction in the following areas:
Types of bank accounts offered, opening and managing a bank account, and assessing the quality of a depository institution’s services.
Balancing a checkbook.
Basic principles of money management, such as spending, credit, credit scores, and managing debt, including retail and credit card debt.
Completing a loan application.
Receiving an inheritance and related implications.
Basic principles of personal insurance policies.
Computing federal income taxes.
Local tax assessments.
Computing interest rates by various mechanisms.
Contesting an incorrect billing statement.
Types of savings and investments.
State and federal laws concerning finance.
Personally, as I review this list I think I could use a “refresher” in quite a few of these topics myself!
Developing Financial Literacy at Home
Children shouldn’t have to wait until high school to learn the basics of personal finance. And even today, only half the states in our country offer classes on this topic.
Here’s a few resources to help you develop these skills at home:
The federal government's website that serves as the one-stop shop for federal financial literacy and education programs, grants and other information. MyMoney.gov is available in English and Spanish.
Kids can browse educational resources to find at-home activities, games, and more. Use coins to teach kids math and finance concepts, as well as general information about the Mint and coins.
Family-At-Home Financial Fun Pack is a curated set of materials, family activities, games, worksheets, and suggested books for your child or anyone sheltering together to enjoy and learn from.
Offers several self-guided program resources in financial literacy for middle schoolers.
A library of personal finance videos for teens including saving and budgeting, interest and debt, taxes and paying for college.
Join the Discussion
Financial literacy is an important life skill and yet recent studies have found there is widespread financial illiteracy in our country. But it’s never too late (or too early) to start having conversations with our kids about the importance of being financially responsible.
We’d love to hear from you! How are you teaching your kids about personal finance at home?
About the Author
Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.