How School Districts Can Embed Financial Literacy

In Arizona, two students, both first-generation Americans, desperately wanted to go to college. But how would they pay for it? Was there any financial aid? What about scholarships? If they were qualified for these options, what did they have to do to apply?

With the support of a specialized education in financial literacy, the two students entered Arizona State University – and also passed on their financial literacy courses and taught their loved ones how to save, apply for funds, do taxes, and more. .

Financial literacy holds incredible power for future generations. Like ASU students, children across the country — and indeed the world — can change the trajectory of their lives by learning to handle a full range of real-life financial situations. However, the rate of financial literacy is still very insufficient; a lack of financial knowledge is still one of the main reasons why students find themselves struggling with credit card debt and other financial difficulties. Parents, teachers, legislators, and others in positions of authority have a great opportunity to close this gap and prepare students for success by including financial literacy in K-12 education.


American schools have room to grow when it comes to teaching kids about money. Less than half of US states (21) integrate finance courses into another class, while only seven states require a stand-alone finance class. However, we are seeing great progress in implementing financial literacy education for all students: Florida recently passed a bill to include personal finance education as a graduation requirement. , and 26 other bills are pending in US legislatures.

The data on the effectiveness of financial education is clear. Students who learn about money in school from an early age are less likely to have credit card debt, have better credit scores, find it easier to make ends meet each month, and are more likely to ask for help. They are even more likely to plan for their retirement.

When someone is financially literate, they tend to make good short- and long-term financial decisions that align well with their values ​​and goals. These decisions can have a significant influence on the well-being of individuals and their wider communities. The purpose of financial education is to facilitate and support this well-being.

Because personal finance education can have such a positive influence on opportunity, success, and satisfaction, parents, teachers, administrators, and legislators should think about how they can move financial literacy from the background to the foreground of the programs.

Financial education is a pathway to student competence, confidence and equality.

Data from a survey of more than 300,000 students in the 2020-2021 school year revealed the following perceptions of high school students regarding their readiness for money:

• Thirty percent of students feel “prepared” or “very prepared” to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

• Only about one-third of students feel “prepared” or “very prepared” to read and understand loan terms, make a college loan repayment plan, or estimate monthly postgraduate loan repayments.

• Less than half of students feel “prepared” or “very prepared” to check and maintain good credit, select, open and manage a checking/savings account, read a paycheck and understand take-home pay, and establish and follow a budget.

Simply put, students are not convinced that they can handle financial matters well or that they can develop good financial habits. Financial education is a way to reverse these statistics, improve capabilities, and help students feel more secure. It can provide them with the knowledge and practice they need to face financial tasks with less anxiety and establish positive behaviors.

All students deserve equal access to the feelings of financial confidence and good results that can come from this knowledge. Not providing financial education in all states inevitably creates inequalities. Creating more standardized financial programs can foster a more level playing field where various groups or regions are not marginalized.


Financial literacy doesn’t happen all at once. Just as teachers don’t offer a single math homework or start kindergartens with numeracy, financial education requires many lessons over time that adapt to students’ changing cognitive and circumstantial needs. . Financial education should therefore be taught on a continuum throughout K-12. Lessons can be incorporated into other courses, such as discussing the stock market in a history segment on the Great Depression. This integration can help improve students’ perception of the relevance of financial literacy in their daily lives.

Some areas of finance, such as the basic steps of budgeting, are relatively consistent and will carry over from generation to generation. Other areas change rapidly. New domains are also being introduced all the time. Subsequently, financial education should include not only ongoing content, but also information on real-time developments within finance. It must evolve to ensure that students are equipped for new modern realities.

A demonstration of this evolution is the updated standards of the Council for Economic Education (CEE) and the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. These new standards aim to steer children away from common money traps and cover topics such as cryptocurrency, identity theft, mobile payments and alternative financial services.

Through financial education, students can build their own future with confidence.

A sound and comprehensive financial education is an essential tool to empower young people to take full ownership of their lives and their dreams. It has the potential to improve students’ confidence in day-to-day financial tasks and tends to improve financial decision-making and behavior. Schools are already linking financial education with equity initiatives in hopes of breaking cycles of poverty and building generational wealth.

Alice Lee is a former educator and Senior Vice President, K-12 Implementation at EVERFI