Conservatives say financial education should extend beyond school years
Student Olivia Raymond participates in a personal finance course in her middle school class in West Orange, New Jersey, in February 2020.
According to many state governors, the pursuit of financial literacy is something that should continue beyond the traditional school years.
“We think it’s a lifelong experience,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told CNBC’s Sharon Epperson during Wednesday’s event, Invest in You: The Conservative Strategy Session on Financial Education.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak agrees on the importance of financial literacy.
“It’s a skill that’s essential to your whole life,” he said. “We have to deal with it in the long run in this regard.”
The case of personal finance education
There are no federal guidelines for teaching personal finance in schools, which means it is up to individual states to set their own rules. And 23 states mandate a personal finance course for students, according to the 2022 State Survey from the Council on Economic Education.
In New Jersey, personal finance education is taught in middle school, and graduating classes in financial, economic, and entrepreneurial business are required.
“You need to reach people when they are young, which is the motivating reason why we’re bringing financial literacy education into our middle school curriculum,” said Murphy, who is a Democrat.
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Nevada students are taught about personal finance topics as part of a social studies class, generally from third grade through high school. In Mississippi, beginning this year, a college and career readiness semester that includes personal financial education is required for high school graduation.
“Each state has to make its own decision and its own priorities as to what classes are most appropriate for its young people,” said Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican. “But I am absolutely convinced that a basic understanding of finances is extremely important to an individual’s ability to succeed in life.”
This also means that states can change their guidelines as they see fit.
Compulsory class might be the next step we go for,” Sisolak, a Democrat, said. He added that it is important to have such a curriculum in schools because many students cannot get financial education at home from their parents, who may also fail in their financial literacy.
Out of school
State governors agree that one reason why a personal finance curriculum is so important in schools is that many parents of students can’t teach them about financial literacy at home or simply don’t talk about enough money.
New Jersey also offers residents access to more personal financial education outside of school. Today, during a CNBC event, Murphy announced that the state has launched NJ FinLit, a financial wellness platform.
“Financial literacy is extremely important for Americans to secure their personal financial situation, to be in a better position to provide for their families and to prepare themselves for future success,” Murphy said.
The platform is developed by Enrich and backed by San Diego-based financial education firm iGrad. It includes courses in personal finance on many topics, including budgeting, savings, retirement, and student loans, and also contains real-time budgeting tools. It’s free for all adult New Jersey residents.
Countries have also made sure that teachers have professional development resources to keep up with the ever-changing financial environment and field questions about things like meme stocks and cryptocurrency.
Mississippi offers a Milestone Personal Finance and Coaching Program.
“The best way to get a good education for a child is to have a good teacher,” Reeves said. “You should have continuing education for personal finance teachers just as you would in English, math, or any other subjects.”
Of course, every state has areas in which it is possible to improve its personal finance education offerings to students, teacher training and resources for adults. It is likely that each state will come up with individual solutions and offers for its residents in the future.
Many states are moving forward with legislation mandating personal finance education for their students. There are currently 54 personal finance education bills outstanding in 26 states, according to the Next Gen Personal Finance bill tracker.