NPR market reports, stock market news flashes, mom and dad’s discussions about their “401K.” While the jargon of finance is ubiquitous, an overwhelming majority of teens reject the challenge of diving into this seemingly out-of-reach subject. Having to juggle the looming priorities of building friendships and maintaining grades, it is understandably difficult to find the energy and enthusiasm to care about the daily fluctuations of the Dow Jon.
For me, while self-learning investment strategies and personal finance skills was an arduous process — given the overwhelming and unorganized collection of educational resources — each new discovery further flared my interest in finance and heightened my realization that finance is an exponentially evolving field. It is now or never — the gap between the financially literate and unaware will continue to widen.
It was this experience that inspired me to join a movement. April, which is Financial Literacy Month, is the time for a shift in how teens like me think about finance: Investing is not exclusively for old, rich millionaires staring at boring company reports; paying the minimum on credit cards doesn’t wipe away debt; budgeting and emergency funds are important to continuously take into consideration.
The statistics about our national financial ignorance are startling. More than a quarter of all adults don’t have anything saved for retirement, 75 percent of Latino and African American households have less than $10,000 saved for retirement and, nearly 40 percent have month-to-month credit card debt.
These statistics are much more than just numbers. They serve as a blatant call to action for our community and especially legislators who can implement changes within the school system.
Here’s one more statistic: More than 80 percent of U.S. students are not required to take a personal finance course to graduate high school.
No wonder only 24 percent of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy.
With such a large crisis in the hands of all Americans, students must begin to fight for proper changes in curriculum. While only 5 states (Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia) require a half-semester course dedicated to personal finance, many students who are outsiders to personal finance are beginning to recognize the desperate need for increased financial education.
A study in 2013 published by Everfi found that 83 percent of students believe that personal finance should be mandatory in schools.
Lawmakers need to listen to the students and ensure that our schools prioritize personal finance in the same way they require art, physical education and health classes. The drowning pressure of banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage companies, brokerages, etc. shows the need for schools to step up and properly prepare students for a financially independent world full of new responsibilities.
That’s why the Young Investors Club at Bellaire High School hosted Financial Freedom — a three-part series that aims to introduce all these fundamental ideas and aid in the transition from high school to college, and subsequent financial reliance to independence. Along with amazing speakers such as Brannon Lloyd (President of the CollegeMoneyGuys), Kelly Rushing (Managing Director of US Capital Advisors LLC) and Lauren Rizzoli (Bellaire’s amazing college counselor), our small group of student leaders hopes to raise awareness and adjust the mindset towards finance. In the absence of financial education, this movement serves to set an example of types of knowledge schools should be distilling and urging for the addition of personal finance to the nationwide list of essential, mandatory classes.
Our students and community leaders must act with a “bullish” mentality — to borrow the market terminology — while pursuing change, carrying an optimistic and aggressive attitude. The sort of financial illiteracy that prevents income equality, compounds debt and encourages crime can be universally expunged by promoting financial education, and the gap separating basic personal finance comprehension from common knowledge will finally be bridged.