Schools Don’t Teach Students About Finance — Here’s the Top 3 Topics They Should Cover

Female high school teacher offering assignment assistance and three students in classroom setting wearing face masks and working at desks observing social distancing using technology of laptop computers and digital tablet; part of a series (Shot with Canon 5DS 50.
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Thinking back to your years in school, do you remember having a firm grasp on financial literacy? If you’re like most Americans, you learned much more about money once you graduated than you ever learned while you were in school. According to a recent GOBankingRates survey of 1,000 Americans, 76% of people believe that high schools are very much lacking when it comes to financial education, and 54% didn’t feel comfortable with money until they were between 18 and 29. This leaves individuals prone to making financial mistakes early in their careers that can lead to huge problems with money in the future. 

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The GOBankingRates survey revealed there are a few key topics that schools can cover that would help better prepare students for the future. These are the subjects surrounding money that those surveyed wished they’d known more about in school, so they didn’t have to learn the hard way. 

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The survey reported 53% of Americans wishing they’d learned more about budgeting in high school, and 22% of respondents still don’t feel like they know enough about budgeting in 2022. Knowing how to budget is the foundation of all financial literacy. Any big decision around money comes down to budgeting, so it’s worth being taught in schools early on. 

Luckily, working budgeting into existing lesson plans can be done pretty seamlessly. Students can be taught a few different budgeting techniques to start. To make things equal among students, they can all be given fake money to redeem for classroom “rent” and rewards like snacks, free passes on assignments, or extra points on a test. One budgeting rule they can be taught is the 50/30/20 rule. That dictates that 50% of a monthly income goes toward needs, 30% goes to wants and 20% goes to savings or paying off debt. Giving students a simulated life where they can apply real world budgeting techniques can teach big lessons that they’ll take with them when they have real income. 


Many Americans still feel like they’re in the dark when it comes to investing. In fact, 44% of those surveyed said they’ve avoided investing all together simply because they don’t understand it. It’s a topic that 52% of Americans wish they learned more about in high school, and 51% feel they need to learn more about still. Because so many Americans don’t feel like they fully understand investing, they also don’t realize how much money they lose out on by not doing it, which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially when it comes to retirement.

Make Your Money Work for You

Investing might seem like a lofty topic to teach to teens, but it can really pay off in the long run. Students can check the stock of brands they’re interested in to get a feel for how they do in the stock market, then track them over time to get a feel for how the market fluctuates. 

As a parent, you can invest some money in the stock market and say that your child gets to keep whatever the sum is after five years. This way, your child has a stake in what’s happening to the money and can watch as the amount changes day to day. 

Managing Debt

Debt is so common, yet many feel like it’s a taboo topic. That mentality might be attributed to the fact that it’s not something that’s not often brought up until we’re experiencing it. A course that discussed how debt accrues, the interest that grows with it, and how to pay it off would have been really helpful, according to 47% of Americans in the GOBankingRates survey. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Expanding on the classroom budget trial from above, teachers could also provide assistance when students went into debt with their fake money. This way, students could learn about loans and interest. Student loans should also be built into curriculum so that when teens go away to college, they aren’t blindsided by the bill they’re left with when they graduate. Student loan education is especially critical for students to know when choosing a school. Knowing ahead of time how the loan works and how much it might cost to pay back after a few years could greatly influence where a student decides to enroll in college. 

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,012 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country on between March 8 and March 9, 2022, asking sixteen different questions: (1) Do you consider yourself financially literate?; (2) Where did you learn most of your financial literacy?; (3) Which financial topic do you think you should have learned more about in high school? (Select all that apply); (4) Which financial topic do you still feel you need more education on in 2022? (Select all that apply); (5) When you were growing up, did your parents talk to you about how to manage your money?; (6) Do you think high schools are lacking in financial education?; (7) How has a lack of financial education cost you the most?; (8) At what age did you become comfortable with basic money skills (i.e., writing a check, balancing your accounts, budgeting)?; (9) At what age did you start saving and planning for retirement?; (10) How do you feel about how you used your 2021 American Rescue Plan stimulus check?; (11) Which financial topic did you feel the need to learn more about due to the COVID-19 pandemic? (Select all that apply); (12) What do you not understand about the Child Tax Credit? (Select all that apply); (13) Which part of the homebuying process is most confusing to you?; (14) Which part of the car buying process is most confusing to you?; (15) Are you prepared for the student loan debt moratorium to end in May?; and (16) How are you changing your driving habits with the rising gas prices? GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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About the Author

Sam DiSalvo is an LA-based comedian, writer and actor who's performed all over the country. Her written work has appeared in numerous digital publications. As a copywriter, she's worked with a variety of major brands including GoldieBlox and Thrive Causemetics. Sam loves dogs and is currently perusing leisure suits to buy for her corgi mix, Barry
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