SURVEY SAYS: Basic Financial Education in K-12 Schools

It seems that many adults are struggling with basic finances—budgeting, paying off debt and saving.

I have seen many suggestions that basic financial education should start when children are in school.


Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Do you think basic financial education should be taught in K-12 schools, and if so, starting at what grade?”


Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents (95.8%) do think basic financial education should be taught in K-12 schools. However, 2.8% said it should not and 1.4% had no opinion.


Asked what grade basic financial education should start, the majority of readers (55.7%) selected elementary grades (K-5). Twenty percent said Grade 6, 2.9% said Grad 7, 7.1% chose Grade 8, 8.6% selected Grade 9, 2.9% said Grade 10, and Grades 11 and 12 were each chosen by 1.4% of respondents.


There were many comments by readers about the importance of starting financial education early, even before children start school. Some noted that parents should also teach these skills, while others noted that if children learn in school, they may be able to help their parents. A few readers even gave ideas for how to teach children basic financial concepts. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: Just like English, Math, Science and Social Studies requirements, there should be mandatory classes (to graduate) for home economics.”


Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!




Teaching basic financial education should start at the parent’s knee. Lesson 1: When you’re a child, save 50% of allowance, jobs, etc. Lesson 2: Always pay yourself 1st. If they follow those lessons, when their adults they will not get in over their heads.

I think that financial education is a life skill along with cooking, sewing, home maintenance and car maintenance.

Several states now require personal finance education in K-12. Notables are Texas, Idaho and Georgia. FINRA has a study on this. I am reviewing to see how my state can incorporate this along with the already required semester on Economics. See also WSJ opinion column March 3, 2017.

You can’t start early enough.

In addition to basic financial education being taught in the classroom, I also believe that parents have the responsibility to pass along sound money management skills and habits.

The Boy Scouts have a Personal Finance Merit Badge which I’ve taught- the younger boys understand it quite differently than the older ones do so I would suggest a class like this should be taught multiple times with different focal points.

Start early! Kids are smart and will absorb basic lessons at a very young age. Sadly many won’t get the lessons at home – so incorporate at school. Lessons can be taught in math, in social studies, and they can learn to make a budget worksheet in computer lab.

Even the youngest of child can be taught financial education. Don’t have to start a first grader learning about stocks/mutual funds, but rather the concept of saving, maybe the concept of interest.

Financial education should be part of the curriculum at every grade level. Having a budget that involves paying yourself first through saving and living below your means, building up to basic investing.

I had a hard time choosing an age. Ultimately I said Grade 9, which is when high school starts in my area. That said, I think it makes sense to start talking about financial ed in broad terms as early as elementary school.

Most kids don’t know what ‘balancing a checkbook’ means since it’s all done online. They need to understand how to pay bills, balance their bank account, save for retirement, insurance, etc.

By 10th grade, when kids are 16 and likely to have a job and driving, they should be able to manage a checking account, understand how loans work, the impact of credit, and how to create and stick with a budget which includes short- and long-term savings. These are basic skills EVERYONE should have and shouldn’t have to learn through trial and error.

Need to train teachers first

Elementary schools now allow students to buy lunch on “credit” through a pre-paid account. I think little things like that hurt financial literacy. I made my kids go to lunch with money to learn about the value of items they’re buying, budgeting, counting change, etc.

Not everything needs to be taught in school. I love teaching my daughters about finances, and abdicating yet one more thing to the schools that parents should be teaching (sex ed!) just doesn’t feel right.

We were required to take a general business class in 9th grade where we learned about budgets, mortgages, writing checks/keeping a ledger, inflation, stocks, bonds, etc. It was useful information that may not be discussed at home. Parents usually shield their kids from family finances and don’t know much about financial markets. I think kids who have some financial education are more likely save, set financial goals etc. and hopefully become interested is seeking further information. If you want to pique a child’s interest in something, you have to expose them to it first.

This should be mandatory in all schools (public and private). I wish it had been taught when I was in school!!!

I did a multi-week session with 7th graders for Junior Achievement one year. It was a great structure and a meaningful event for the students as they began to realize what it takes to run a household. I don’t think it is that difficult to structure and might even be part of basic math, budgeting, along with those dreadful word problems! Wherever it’s taught, it’s important and teaching the children can help the parents too.

For younger grades, the children should be able to equate saving with rewards. This would not need to be done with money, but other items such as bottle caps or straws. They could be shown how even more bottle caps and straws would be added by an outside source (interest). At the end of period of time, the child would count how many items he/she put in and how many items were “earned” as interest. A small prize would be given to each child depending on the earned interest amount.

I believe that financial education is a basic part of math. In addition, it also teaches the benefits of waiting, versus instant gratification.

Our school system teaches basic financial education in 12th grade, but it is too late. Many of these kids already have jobs, but spending all their money; not saving any for later or something special. It should be taught sooner at a grade appropriate level.

There is one problem with this survey and that is defining basic financial education. Depending on the definition of basic, would make a difference where you believe it should start. I elected K-5, because the true basics of financial education needs to start as soon as possible, i.e. what is money and how it is used. Savings is a very important part of financial education and it can never start early enough. However, dealing with credit cards or checking accounts, budgeting and more advanced type financial education would probably be more appropriate for the middle school age student.

It is never too early to start teaching kids about money and budgeting. We have way too many financially illiterate adults in this world. Maybe a little early intervention would have helped.

Seems odd that most surveys say adults need financial education yet we expect them to teach it to their children. Doesn’t seem logical.

I think Parents should teach sex education and schools financial education.

Honestly, I believe your children’s financial education should start at home prior to starting school. My little tikes (8 of them) have been learning about financial concepts since they played with Little Tikes! They are all now in their teens and twenties and are on very solid ground financially.

The earlier the better. Kids see parents pay for things every day with money and credit cards. They should know how you earn, save it, grow it, etc. It’s just as important, if not more, than music and art classes.

We should hope to teach children so they do not repeat the mistakes their parents made. But sadly, many parents will teach their kids to make those mistakes by example. Do as I say, not as I do doesn’t always work!

Like many things, financial education requires repeated exposure. Beginning early with simple concepts and building on them over time is the best way to make the concepts stick.

I believe as soon as they can understand how to add/subtract and know how to count money, they should understand the concept of saving.

Just like English, Math, Science and Social Studies requirements, there should be mandatory classes (to graduate) for home economics.

I think back to my grade school days and I had a paper route. It was actually a little business as I needed a checking account to pay for my papers and had to collect door to door every two weeks for the subscriptions. The remainder was my profit. It provided very valuable experience for me and today I am a C.P.A. Education in my grade school years would have been wonderful.

Perhaps, is the answer to the question. Of course, we teach our children mathematics starting at very young ages and I don’t see this improving the ‘knowledge’ of our graduates compared to the rest of the world or even previous generations. Until we develop effective teaching techniques (or bring back ones that worked), the subject matter won’t matter. If anything, confusion may be created.

I think that it’s important to teach young kids basic financial information, of course on their level. In school, they can learn the facts so they are aware of the terms and concepts, but their parents should be responsible for instilling their values about saving, etc. The teaching both in school and at home should continue through high school and beyond.

Financial education for kids is going to have to go beyond counting coins and bills, because who carries cash today? You just stick a card in a magic machine and, poof! You can buy whatever your heart desires. That will be very challenging to teach, but oh so necessary. And maybe some of it will rub off on mom and dad!

Perhaps teaching basic finances will also help with the other basic school topics as well. Anything to get people to pay attention to what is happening to them financially will help

The challenge is educating the educators!

They should start courses before they are old enough to get a job (excluding babysitting, etc.) so they are prepared to handle their money smartly.

Teaching kids about money can’t start early enough. As I tell my kids, money doesn’t grow on trees! 🙂

We included a couple financial education courses in our homeschool curriculum. These included our child participating in real-life, hands-on experiences with our family’s financial life – bank account and credit card account reconciliation, online bill payment, investment and retirement account reviews, medical, dental, vision, life and auto insurance reviews and annual benefits enrollment.

The earlier the better. Introduce children to the subject while they are “sponges” for information and before they pick up bad habits from others.

Lessons should be tailored and age appropriate but there is a level of financial education that can be learned by everyone. Instilling sound financial habits at an early age will benefit everyone through the years.

Kids need to understand a basic budget, as well as using credit, specifically credit cards.

The kids should have little jobs to do around the house and be paid an allowance, and taught to save that money for something they would like to have. Giving them money for doing nothing will teach them that they can get by doing nothing and still receive benefits. What a country.

I think financial education should start as soon as most children are able to have a job. They should start learning about saving for retirement, balancing a checkbook, budgeting, etc.

Since it is not being taught at home, it needs to be taught at school. When I was a kid, I was told I needed to save for college and the rule was “save half, spend half”. I usually saved more than half because I had no need for money at such a young age. Every time I received money, my parents would take me to the bank to deposit it into my “passbook savings” account. Remember those? I still have the book! The majority of the entries were for very small amounts, less than $5.00. I was able to graduate from college in 4 years with no debt. In fact, I still had $2000 left in my account!

Financial education should be the most important part of a child’s education. Without financial knowledge, individuals struggle their whole lives. Start with learning coins at very early ages. Playing games like Monopoly, Pay Day, etc. reinforces the ability to understand money matters.

The sooner the better. Most families don’t talk about money.

Kids generally do not understand the basics of finance (credit, budgets, saving). If they are taught good financial habits early, they will be able to handle their finances better.

Yes, absolutely! I had no idea when choosing to go to college that they would loan you more money than you would ever be able to pay back with the major you chose, and neither did my parents who had never gone to college and only had a mortgage.

Kids want toys, electronics….then they want more and more. If taught early about the money then they realize how much things costs. Some kids brag about how much their pants or their shoes costs thinking the more the better “image” to their peers; especially when other kids’ families can’t afford them, and put them down for what they wear. Teaching the value of money and saving is important. We put our grandchildren’s birthday money in a savings account for them every year so that when they turn of age to buy a car, they are able to purchase a decent used car. They get excited watching their money grow and the “little” interest they earn when the money is put in certificates of deposit for 5 year terms. We do this as a “start” to get them excited about saving.

I think it should be ongoing from K on. By the time kids graduate high school they should know budgeting inside and out, know how to balance a checkbook and other basic financial necessities.

Ask pretty much anybody in the retirement space what would greatly boost retirement readiness/preparedness, and they’ll say “financial literacy” without any real notion of what that means. And yet, most studies show that if you teach it before kids are ready to apply those skills, it’s for naught. So, I expect you’ll get a massive response that it should be taught, and that it should start early. The followup question is – what would that curriculum look like?

The earlier the better. My kindergartener asked me the difference between ‘cash money’, debit and credit cards the other day. The younger she learns the basic concepts, the less taboo they will be.



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.