John Railey: Early financial literacy is the right way to go | Columnists

John Railey Guest Columnist

Kendall Fields recently worked with her sophomore class at Parkland High School, teaching them some of the basics of financial literacy, including excise taxes — specifically the one on gasoline. “It should be easy because you live it,” he said.


The students nodded, all too familiar with the high gas prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Fields helped them understand it in its entirety, including the government’s option to temporarily waive the gas tax to mitigate price hikes caused by soaring oil prices. The class also discusses other real-world challenges, including supply and demand and progressive tax rates vs. flat tax rates and how to build good credit, an essential part on the path to success. home ownership.

“Financial education has long been a graduation requirement in North Carolina public schools, but House Bill 924, passed in 2019, expanded and refined the social studies courses required for graduation. degree,” said Courtney Tuck, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Superintendent. of social studies. “This legislation requires students who entered ninth grade in 2020 to take a separate course on economics and personal finance instead of civics and economics.”

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The more financial education, the better. At the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM) at Winston-Salem State University, community partners working together to increase homeownership, a foundation for wealth creation, constantly speak to us the importance of financial literacy. The Forsyth County Homeownership Program includes financial literacy classes for its clients. This may be one of the reasons why, over the 15 years of the program studied by CSEM Director Craig Richardson and Research Director Zach Blizard, less than 8% of homes purchased in the part of the program have been entered.

Many local organizations offer financial literacy classes for adults. It’s good. But our partners tell us that young people need more opportunities to take these courses. A CSEM-supported program that CSEM Associate Director Alvin Atkinson works with, Project MOORE, recently began offering introductory financial education to middle school students.

Several students who took Fields’ course last semester told me it was necessary. They said their parents did not own a house, although some worked there. The students said they hoped to become homeowners. “We learned about mortgages and how to build credit,” said one student.

They talked about the obstacles to upward economic mobility, with one talking about his father’s business and how he had to save his own money for improvements rather than turning to the banks where he was struggling to get a loan. Students acknowledged that more affluent students their age at other schools grew up learning financial literacy lessons from their parents.

One student said of Fields’ class, “I learned a lot about budgeting and doing taxes. I would like to see more.

Another said: “Investing is really important to me.” Yet another said: ‘We talked about planning for contingencies, like car wrecks, putting money aside. Don’t overlook unexpected events. I just started saving.

Students said they liked Fields’ style of teaching. Fields, 31, said financial literacy education is especially important for a school like Parkland, where the majority of students are underresourced minorities. “Our student population, just because of widespread socio-economic issues, financial issues hit them a little bit earlier,” he said.

It teaches them the basics, like budgeting. “Budgeting is about balancing something you want against something you need and which is more important,” he said.

“You have to plan things. I wish I had a nice house and a nice car, but I’m a teacher. I get paid what I get paid. Sometimes you have to deal with ‘It would be really cool to own that. Should I buy this or should I keep this money a little longer? It really inspires students to look into these things.

Fields made the course well worth their time, said students who took it last semester.

Hopefully these courses will help these students, our future, to buy their first home in the next decade.

John Railey, [email protected], is the writer-in-residence at the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (