Financial Literacy: Nearly 9 Out of 10 Adults Say States Should Require Financial Education

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If you think kids should acquire more financial literacy before graduating from high school, you have plenty of company. The overwhelming majority of U.S. adults say financial education should be required 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 18 and older, conducted in March and released on Monday, found that 88% of respondents said their states should require high school students to take either a semester- or year-long financial education course before they can graduate. Eighty percent said they wish they had been required to take financial education courses in high school.

More than 90% of older respondents (ages 45 and up) said states should mandate financial education in high school. That compares to 79% of respondents ages 18-29. Adults with a postsecondary degree were much more likely to say their state should mandate financial education than those with no high school diploma. Similarly, adults with higher incomes were much more likely to support financial education than lower earners.

But regardless of age, education level or income, the vast majority of U.S. adults support financial education courses.

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

For now, not nearly enough students are getting the kind of financial education they need to prepare them for life after graduation. A separate survey from Junior Achievement and Citizens Financial Group, released last month, found that more than half of U.S. teens feel unprepared to finance their futures. More than 40% said they have had no financial literacy classes in school.

Only about one-quarter of high school students in the U.S. have guaranteed access to a personal finance course, CNBC reported, citing a recent report from the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance.

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

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As to what adults think should be taught in financial education courses: Three-quarters of respondents in the NEFE survey said spending and budgeting is the most important topic to teach for personal finance education. Next came managing credit (55%), saving money (49%) and earning income (47%).

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About the Author

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