Financial literacy

Financial literacy is the capacity, based on knowledge, skills and access, to manage financial resources effectively. To develop this capacity, individuals must have appropriate access to and understanding of financial products, services, and concepts.


Why Financial Literacy?

Access to age-appropriate financial literacy and financial products will empower our students, especially those residing in low-income school complex areas, to better manage their money while in college and after they graduate. Various youth financial literacy program models have been successful in increasing our students’ financial knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes. In addition, extensive resources exist that can assist teachers, schools, and the Department of Education to integrate financial literacy concepts into Hawaii’s classrooms.

  • Student Voice: High school students need to learn how to manage money, by Pearl City High senior Ethan Kwon

Financial literacy, or financial capability as it is currently defined at the federal level, is the capacity, based on knowledge, skills and access, to manage financial resources effectively. To develop this capacity, individuals must have appropriate access to and understanding of financial products, services, and concepts. Financial literacy empowers individuals to make informed choices, avoid pitfalls, know where to go for help, and take actions to improve their present and long-term financial well-being.

Resources: DCCA

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Office of the Securities Commissioner (OSC) has an Investor Education Program which conducts statewide outreach to the public focusing on safe and wise investing and fraud prevention. The Investor Education Program has a wide range of free resources to support teachers and students in the area of investor, financial and economic education. In addition to our state materials, we also provide our federal partners’ materials who include U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Investor Protection Trust (IPT), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and various Federal Reserve Offices.

In 2012, the Office of the Securities Commissioner became the designated State Coordinator and manages the program year round. LifeSmarts was created in 1994 and is a program of the National Consumer League (NCL) brought to Hawaii by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Office of the Securities Commissioner in partnership with the Hawaii Credit Union League and many other local sponsors. Our office actively delivers and supports LifeSmarts statewide in an effort to increase the student’s knowledge in five topic areas 1) consumer rights & responsibilities, 2) personal finance, 3) health & safety, 4) technology and 5) environment. LifeSmarts is aligned with Common Core States Standard Initiative (CCSSI), can be part of a school day or afterschool learning activity and easy on-line access for the participants. Data that highlights the participation of LifeSmarts over the past years are available upon request.

The DCCA's Office of the Securities Commissioner in partnership with Hawaii Council on Economic Education (HCEE) provides the Stock Market Simulation (SMS) which is a free interactive tool that helps students in grades 3-12 learn how to invest and save for their future. HCEE provides teacher-training workshops and state of the art curricula so teachers can help their students learn about economic and financial concepts, set goals, and manage money by using practical math and research skills. Data that highlights the participation of SMS over the past years are available upon request.

Resources: Financial Reality Fairs

A Financial Reality Fair is a 2.5 hour hands-on experience in which students, after identifying their career choice and starting salaries, are provided a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing and food. Of course, there are many temptations for additional spending, and students must learn to balance their wants and needs to live on their own.

After they have visited all the booths, students will balance their budget, and then sit down with a financial counselor to review their standing. The fair is a unique opportunity for each student to experience some of the financial challenges he or she will face when starting life on their own. An important component to a responsible financial lifestyle is saving In the Financial Reality Fair experience, students are encouraged to save a minimum of 10 percent of their income, placing 3 percent in a long-term retirement investment, and 7 percent in a shorter-term investment. The Financial Counselors explore the importance of planning for future needs and preparing for future financial challenges through savings. The fair will tempt students to spend their income on “fun,” but the Financial Counselors will bring the focus back to saving and thrift practices.

Schools can connect with participating credit unions to begin the process. There are many credit union resources to assist with bringing financial reality fairs to schools. Some of these include:

Please note that these resources are not officially endorsed by the Hawaii Department of Education. They are intended to offer support and ideas as educators consider appropriate materials for their classrooms.

Additional Resources Description

Financial Literacy Task Force Final Report

View report

Senate Concurrent Resolution 97, Senate Draft 1, requests the Department of Education (DOE) to establish a task force to address the issues and challenges of implementing financial literacy education for all Hawaii public school students.

HIDOE Standards with Opportunities to Integrate Financial Literacy Concepts

View report

A table with Hawaii Department of Education content standards with opportunities to integrate financial literacy concepts.

National Education Association Grades K-12 resources for teaching financial literacy.
California Department of Education Grades K-12 links to approximately 46 financial literacy resource sites.

Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education

Grades 9-12 tools and resources to help you or your students learn about financial aid for college.

​Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs — Insurance Division
Chanel Honda, Multi-Media Education Specialist:, 808-586-2790, 808-586-3819  

​Insurance Resources

​Junior Achievement Hawaii
​Personal finance course.
​MyMoney financial education program by First Hawaiian Bank
​First Hawaiian Bank is offering their MyMoney financial education program free and online to all students, K-12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic's disruption to schools. Click to view registration information.

Big Island Federal Credit Union
Nicole Aguinaldo, President/CEO

Protecting your identity, Member Education.

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union
Kristy Akao, Youth Services Coordinator

Financial literacy for youth: Hawaii Community FCU Youth Finances

Hawaii Federal Credit Union
Debra Nelson-Kelii, Vice President of Community Development

Classroom Presentations on Basic Financial Principles.

Hawaii State Federal Credit Union
Allison Maertens, VP Marketing

Hawaii State FCU Free Financial Education Classroom Presentations

HawaiiUSA Federal Credit Union
Bryan Yucoco, Financial Wellness Manager

HFS Federal Credit Union
Ashley Yamamoto, Marketing Coordinator

Youth Activities to do with your child

Kauai Community Federal Credit Union
Terri Kaniho, Marketing Specialist

Financial Literacy Education for All Ages: Financial literacy resources for schools.

Maui Federal Credit Union
Clayton Fuchigami, President/CEO

Presentations on Credit, Credit Cards and FICO scores.
​Next Gen Personal Finance: The NGPF website is a "one-stop shop" for teacher curricular and professional development needs.

​NGPF offers middle and high school teachers a free, ready to implement financial literacy curriculum (including math and econ collections) as well as Spanish versions for ELL students. There are lesson plans, activities, projects, online arcade games, video clips, case studies, a semester-long sample course, and more to teach the basics of personal finance including saving, investing, checking accounts, budgeting, paying for college, careers, insurance and taxes. 

Wailuku Federal Credit Union
Craig Kinoshita, CEO

Classroom Presentations on Basics of Financial Literacy.

​Madison Trust Company Financial Literacy for Beginners

Resources to help beginners find the information they need to make wise money decisions.


Ho‘oha‘aheo newsletter cover

The Department's primary publication featuring successes across our public schools.

View all Ho‘oha‘aheo Newsletters