By Jason Alderman
Have you tried helping your children with their homework lately? Itâ€™s amazing how much information theyâ€™re able to absorb. But some would say weâ€™re doing our kids a disservice by not emphasizing more strongly a critical part of growing up – personal financial management skills.
Four out of five high school seniors have never taken a personal financial management class, yet theyâ€™ll soon be asked to balance a checkbook, file taxes and manage credit cards – if they arenâ€™t already doing so.
An intense dialog currently is taking place in state legislatures and school boards around the country over whether financial literacy curriculum should be mandated for students, and if so, what specifically should be taught. Already, several states have adopted a variety of measures, including establishing high school graduation requirements for financial literacy education.
Thereâ€™s no shortage of evidence that our kids need help: According to the most recent biannual survey of high school seniors conducted by the non-profit JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, fewer than one-quarter of high school seniors understand that savings account interest may be taxable. In addition, roughly 60 percent donâ€™t realize they could lose their health insurance if their parents become unemployed, and nearly a third think the U.S. has a 6 percent national sales tax.
Meanwhile, the debate on how to fix this looming financial illiteracy crisis is growing. On May 1, 2007, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (part of the U.S. Federal Reserve System, or â€œthe Fedâ€) and Visa USA will co-host a free, two-hour online forum that brings together leading educators, policy makers and representatives from the non-profit and private sectors to discuss the issue of financial literacy.
The Financial Literacy and Education Summit 2007 will be simulcast live from Chicago over the Internet from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., Central Time, and then available afterward for viewing at any time online. During the summit, panel members will discuss national frameworks for financial literacy education and the challenges of promoting financial education on a national level.
One key discussion topic will be, should financial literacy programs for students be mandated and if so, who should oversee these requirements – the federal government, the states or individual school districts? Other potential topics likely will include:
- Who should decide what students should be taught and what constitutes financial literacy?
- How would we measure whether students have sufficient knowledge and skills to take individual responsibility for their personal economic well-being?
- Who would pay to develop curriculum, textbooks and other materials?
- What additional training would teachers require?
- How would financial literacy courses be fit into already full class schedules?
The second portion of the forum will bring together experienced financial education advocates from the non-profit and private sectors, educators and other practitioners to share different classroom education approaches currently being used, showing how they have succeeded and why.
To participate in this free Financial Literacy and Education Summit, go to www.practicalmoneyskills.com/summit2007 and pre-register.
Take the time to listen in on this critical dialogue around an issue that is so vital to our childrenâ€™s – and our own – personal financial health and stability.
Jason Alderman directs the Practical Money Skills for Life program for Visa USA.