SURVEY SAYS: Financial Education in Public Schools

September 16, 2013 ( – Last week I asked NewsDash readers, Do you think financial education should be taught in K-12 schools, and if so, what should be taught?

Nearly 60% of responding readers said yes, financial education should be taught, starting in elementary school. Thirty-one percent indicated it should be taught starting in middle school, and 9.4% said it should be taught starting in high school.

Nearly all respondents believe creating and sticking to a budget and the importance of saving should be taught (91.5% each). Nearly 70% said basic investing concepts should be taught, and 67% indicated basic economics should be taught.

Nearly 40% chose “other,” with responses including:

·         not carrying consumer debt such as credit cards – pay cash or don’t buy it

·         Economics of getting an education (either technical or professional) beyond high school.

·         balancing a checkbook

·         use of credit and credit scores (how that works)

·         how the stock market works, the importance of establishing separate savings buckets (short-term, emergency, long-term), how Social Security “works” But honestly (and why would I lie?), I’d encourage the incorporation of these basic financial education concepts in all their subjects, not just standalone.

·         All of the above!

·         Importance of saving for retirement

·         Money doesn’t grow on trees

·         why charitable giving is so important.

·         comparison shopping

·         Taxes and what they fund

·         Work and earnings; global economics; labor economics, etc. The list is ENDLESS.

·         The “magic” of compound interest

·         corporate structure and financing, e.g. what is a stock and what is a bond? how are they different?

·         How to use a bank and pay bills

·         Real world costs/prices

·         Connection between work and pay

·         Financial responsibility as an element of emotional well being

·         Middle school kids should be allowed to read “On My Own Two Feet” book by author Manisha Thakor


In verbatim comments, many stressed how parents should educate their children about finances, or lamented how parents are not teaching it and do not manage their finances well themselves. Others broke down what concepts should be taught at what ages. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “I can’t believe you will get a single negative response to this question. You might just as well have asked about the existence of gravity. That said, you’re going to have to start by making all these k-12 educators go through the training first because, while they surely aren’t uneducated, many do seem to have missed the personal finance curriculum at college.”


Several years ago, I taught Junior Achievement classes to high school students. We looked at average wages for the jobs they said they wanted, computed take home pay, and determined a monthly budget based on that pay. Most of them learned that a minimum wage job was not going to pay the bills. I know that sparked an interest in several of the students to look into furthering their education.


with the gap growing between the middle class and the wealthy, middle and low income Americans are going to find it harder and harder to make ends meet if not taught to save and budget during their education.


They should make financial education part of current american history to teach kids how NOT to handle their finances. need a "HELL, yes..." option.


I don't think it is ever too early to start teaching kids about money & money management.


The ABA's "Teach Children to Save" and "Get Smart About Credit" are great programs for kids - but it's only once a year. My son is a high school senior attending a private parochial school and has had only rudimentary exposure to economics and how the money world works, because this is not on the AP track at his school. Thankfully he is a saver and very thrifty, but I told him since he can't take econ this year he needed to take it in college. Unfortunately I probably won't be able to hound him about it...


Financial education modules should be created and implemented by private sector companies with the input of educators and school administrators.


From what I see, financial education is virtually non-existent in K-12 schools. After watching their parents hit the ATMs, I think kids need to know that you have to have money in "the machine" in order to get money out!


Ideally these concepts would also be taught at home. Unfortunately, parents cannot teach that which they do not know.


While I didn't receive any financial education in school, I learned by my parents' example. My son did have some exercises in selecting stocks and tracking market returns in high school. However, I think some of the basics of managing a checking account and avoiding credit card and other forms of debt is equally important. Based on the financial behavior of much of our society, it is doubtful that children are being taught sound financial principles at home -- and "do as I say, not as I do" is not an effective way of teaching.

Verbatim (cont.)

I participated in a Junior Achievement program for sixth graders which involved the process to "redecorate" their classroom. It was a math lesson but it also involved budgets, savings, including the concept of interest. The kids loved it because they could relate to it and they also learned what it takes financially to redecorate a space and could relate it to their own situations - their room or a room in their house. It's a fantastic way to teach this concept.


I think there are too many people who know nothing about finance - even how to keep a checking account who graduate from high school and end up in dire straits.


unfortunately I don't see how it will help since most of today's students don't understand the fundamentals of basic math. If you can't add and subtract financial education is useless


Children need to taught that there has to be money in the bank beffore a check can be written. Oh wait some adults need to be taught that also!


I think teaching about saving should start in elementary school. My kids had a semester long class in middle school where all the kids were given different jobs and salaries and they had to make a budget and pay all expenses, balance their checkbook, figure out how much their paycheck would be and most important - how to count back change! It was an awesome class!


I still remember my consumer education class in high school. I actually learned something in that class. Today I don't think they teach it anymore. What a shame!


The financial and non-financial habits people develop as children stay with them for life. Individuals and society would both greatly benefit from early financial education.


Money is both a resource and an advantage. We teach sustainability for natural resources, why not for financial resources.


Financial lessons can easily be fit into current math and history cirriculum at age appropriate levels. Prime focus should be to graduate with an understanding of the interconnectivity of commerce and money flow while also impressing the need for individual smart decisions.


I am a volunteer with Junior Achievement and have taught in both elementary and high school classrooms. In the 1st grade lesson, we talk about needs vs. wants, how families work together, jobs people do, and how communites work. Start financial education as early as possible.

Verbatim (cont.)

I believe that students in the U.S. are falling victim to delayed financial development. Lessons that should be instilled when someone is very young are not even being learned until a year or two after graduating from college/unviersity. How can someone make a decision about student loans, car payments, and participating in a 401(k) when they were never taught it in elementary school, high school, or college? It needs to be taught in all school curriculum.


Appropriate money management concepts can be taught based on the age of the child. This will help children understand allowances plus how they can earn and manage money. The concepts, goals can be taught showing how money is earned based on the age of the child. These concepts will be invaluable when becoming an adult.


I think we need to start at home first, with parents learning financial knowledge and less of the plastic society we have now.


I don't think it is ever too young to start kids off with basic financial knowledge. We started talking with our son at age 4 about the importance of saving as well as donating and the basic concept of investing.


Kids need to learn about money and finance because too many parents just give their kid whatever they want and then they EXPECT everyone else to do the same. They need to learn the value of a dollar and saving for things that you want. Let them see how long it takes to save for a $100 pair of jeans or shoes.


Too many people learn VERY bad economic habits and develop economic dsyfunctions as they are growing up. Many have absolutely no concept of how an economy works. This is ESSENTIAL!


Absolutely critical


Schools rarely teach financial education. It's no wonder that we have so many Americans at a complete loss on how to make sound financial decisions. Why aren't they in their 401(k)? Do they understand how much they're really paying for that TV when they are making minimum payments on a credit card?


With dummy cash registers young people don't know how to make change so teaching this basic cash concept will keep it from becoming another lost art.


Many of today's students do not receive financial education at home so start educating them early about things they can understand for their age. Be sure that they understand the consequences of their financial decisions or lack thereof. Teach them not to take money from their retirement accounts for any reason, instead save in multiple"buckets" so they can buy a house, pay for school, and still retire.

Verbatim (cont.)

Kids are not taught to even balance a checkbook or to reconcile their bank statements


Don't leave this to the teachers. They need financial education just as much as the students.


I was in high school in the early seventies. I recall one math teacher to took part of a couple of class periods to teach us how to balance a checkbook and do a simple 1040. These are basic skills everyone needs to be taught. With the complexities of taxes and IRA investing, more needs to be taught so future generations are better prepared to deal with the real world. Maybe our illustrious television producers can come up with a reality show that actually teaches some worthwhile skills rather than the "reality" garbage they are spewing.


This is an important life skill. Can not be stressed enough in schools.


Absolutely! This should be taught. We are raising a generation that thinks plastic is money!


It doesn't have to be complex mathematics. But a basic understanding of how investing and saving go together, as part of a simple macro-economic education, would be very beneficial.


When did they quit including financial education? We covered these topics in 4th grade math....back in the 60's..LOL.


What education?


The kids need this fundamental education in school because most parents are completely clueless about finances.


this has been a problem for generations. I have been in the financial industry for 20 plus years and I learned everything via the job.

Verbatim (cont.)

It's never too early!


Kids need to be taught the basics in school, because many of them have no resource for learning it anywhere else.


If there were financial education in the '60's and '70's then maybe the baby boomers wouldn't be in such a financial mess today, with lots of people owing thousands on credit cards and leasing cars that otherwise are too expensive to buy.


If parents aren't going to do it someone has to.


The concept of budgeting can and should be taught from Kindergarten. Even a 5 year old can understand the basic concept of finance and risk & reward (what 5 year old hasn't heard an ultimatum from their parents?). At 30 I'm shocked at how many of my friends still can't live within a budget. I never thought I'd say this but being lower middle class as a kid actually made me a more financially responsible adult.


Maybe then they'd understand why they can't always have the latest and greatest gadget-of-the-week.


I grew up in Oregon, where this was a required part of the curriculum. I learned how to balance a checkbook and basic investing concepts. Frankly, if I hadn't learned how to balance a checkbook there, I don't know where I would have learned!


saving start in elementary & budgeting start in middle


I had classes around these concepts in high school (1990), and think about how more significant and impactful it would have been to start earlier in life and build upon it.


Great idea. The earlier children learn about money management and their resposibility regarding their future the better.

Verbatim (cont.)

Start with basic facts and move ahead from there. A high school graduate should understand the basics of investing. Also thrown into the mix should be a basic understanding of health insurance (terms, etc) and 401(k)'s. Too many of those entering the workplace have no understanding of even the basic. And that includes college graduates!


Children do not understand the value of money -- they think it grows on trees.


If taught, it must be in its purity, not slanted to advance some socialist's agenda!!!


Teaching budgeting is the priority. Second would be an honest look at the cost of post-secondary education and the need to look at alternatives. Third would be how to review/compare financing options.


It's never too young to teach children about money or how to save and live on a budget. As well as how to balance a bank statement, writing checks etc. Teaching small children the difference between needs and wants will also help them learn to save.


This is something that most parents do not teach their children anymore, and it's a huge miss. Kids need to be taught the value of work and that it leads to a paycheck - something most college grads today don't understand. They just feel they're "entitled" to a big paycheck because they do what they're told.


Good - we'll finally replace soccer-mom with stocker-mom. Bad - instead of lunch money geek-bullies will steal account numbers and portfolios.


Other than the concept of supply and demand, I remember nothing from my economics class; the concepts were too broad for me to care about (at least as an adolescent) on a day-to-day basis. Personal economics is another matter entirely. I had to learn the hard way about credit, emergency funds (or lack thereof) and wanting a better life. If an opportunity had been presented to learn more about individual finances while I was still in high school.....I might be working in something I love for the fun of it instead of slaving to cover the mortgage and electricity. I am grateful that I am able to do so, and for my job but...a little more financial freedom would be nice.


Stress that financial responsibility is THE reason to do well in school.


I can't believe you will get a single negative response to this question. You might just as well have asked about the existence of gravity. That said, you're going to have to start by making all these k-12 educators go through the training first because, while they surely aren't uneducated, many do seem to have missed the personal finance curriculum at college.


It's never too early to start discussions on financial education



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