The world expects high school students to hit the ground running after graduation, assuming that we are equipped with the proper tools to be an adult. However, when it comes to financial literacy and gaining the skills needed to make smart decisions about money, there are limited opportunities for students.
Saving, investing, spending — these are terms my peers are familiar with; yet, few can say they know how to save their money, or where, for that matter. This means that students are thrust into the real world without the capability to write checks, understand how to do their taxes, or how to invest and save money.
I feel fortunate that my parents have taken the time to teach me about budgeting, credit and debt, mortgages and other financial literacy concepts. I have friends who are not as lucky and are left in the dark when it comes to the basics such as the difference between a credit and debit card.
While parents need to take an active role ensuring that their child is financially literate, schools should also play their part by weaving these concepts into the curriculum. In the past, my school required students to pass a test that measured, among many things, the financial competency of students.
This test was called the HSTEC (Hawaii State Test of Essential Competencies) and in order to graduate, the test must have been passed or a supplemental course be taken. It is no longer required but it is something the school and department should consider implementing again. Not for the sake of having a test, but rather, to give students an idea of the areas they need to improve before they make a financial mistake that impacts the rest of their lives.
While parents and schools need to set an example and help by providing the lessons and resources for financial literacy, students can take the initiative by starting these conversations and showing the adults in our lives that we are ready and need these tools.
There are a variety of programs and resources that are available for students, families and schools to explore. One example is the Stock Market Challenge, which is a competition students can participate in where they trade and buy securities as if they were on Wall Street. A group of classmates and I participated in the competition, and even though we did not get very far, there was a multitude of concepts that we learned for the first time and prove to be remarkably relevant as we come close to graduating.
In addition to this competition, an Introduction to College Math course is available at my school: its primary focus is mathematics, but our instructor has assigned a project in which students write checks, balance a checkbook, and aims to help students familiarize themselves with rent, paychecks, debits, credits and the consequences of financial decisions.
Courses that weave in financial literacy concepts will help acquaint students with essential life skills and a better understanding of how their financial decisions can affect their future.
Student life is filled with busy schedules and the short capacity for doing things outside of school and their interests. Integrating the concepts of finances into their lives early gives them leeway to make mistakes in a safe place rather than having everything come crashing down on them in the long run.
A prime example of financial illiteracy for millennials is debt from student loans and college in general; the repercussions of not handling these issues produce things like bad credit. Whether it is at home, school or preferably both, the introduction to finances needs to be done in order to prevent future generations from becoming overwhelmed with economic duress and struggle.