Financial literacy: Nearly 9 in 10 adults say states should require financial education

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If you think kids should learn more financial literacy before they graduate from high school, you’ve got plenty of company. The overwhelming majority of American adults say financial education should be mandatory in schools, according to a new survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).

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The survey of 1,030 Americans ages 18 and older, conducted in March and released Monday, found that 88% of respondents said their states should require high school students to take a financial education course from a semester or a year before they can graduate. Eighty percent said they wish they had been required to take financial education classes in high school.

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More than 90% of older respondents (45+) said states should make high school financial education mandatory. This compares to 79% of respondents aged 18-29. Adults with a post-secondary degree were significantly more likely to say their state should make financial education mandatory than those without a high school diploma. Similarly, adults with higher incomes were much more likely to support financial education than those with lower incomes.

But regardless of age, education, or income, the vast majority of American adults support financial education classes.

“Americans overwhelmingly recognize the importance of learning financial skills at an early age and this poll confirms that there is demonstrated national support for personal finance to be part of learning in all schools,” said the NEFE CEO Billy Hensley quoted in a press release.

So far, few students are getting the kind of financial education they need to prepare for life after graduation. A separate survey by Junior Achievement and Citizens Financial Group, released last month, found that more than half of American teens feel unprepared to finance their future. More than 40% said they had not taken any financial literacy courses at school.

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Only about a quarter of high school students in the United States have guaranteed access to a personal finance course, CNBC reported, citing a recent report by the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance.

But there have been positive developments. A growing number of states are considering legislation that would make personal finance education mandatory. In March, Florida became the largest state to require personal finance training in high school. Georgia’s governor is expected to sign a similar bill this week.

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As for what adults think should be taught in financial education classes: three-quarters of NEFE survey respondents said spending and budgeting is the most important subject to teach for education to personal finance. This is followed by credit management (55%), savings (49%) and income (47%).

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work has also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a BA in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting has earned him awards from the North Carolina Press Association, Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A North Carolina native who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story “Saint Christopher” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest short story competition. Two of her short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. Her first novel, Voodoo Hideaway, is published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.