April, Financial Literacy Month, is the time of year when we recognize financial literacy and how we are doing at this as Americans. So what better time to talk about financial literacy and our school systems? Knowledge about the ins and outs of daily finance activities is lacking among a large population of Americans. Many schools are taking notice. Knowing how to navigate the bare minimum requirements of adulthood, such as paying bills and filing annual taxes, is an integral part of being prepared for the future. Yet it is an area where there is a lot of room for improvement. In order to properly prepare our children for the huge leap into adulthood it is imperative they are equipped with tools to properly manage their money, obtain and maintain credit, plan for their future savings, budget their expenses, and much more. Financial literacy has become a required subject for many schools across the nation, and this practice is taking hold and growing.
What is Financial Literacy Month?
April has been recognized as Financial Literacy Month in the United States since the year 2003. Financial Literacy Month has a long history with inception dating back to nearly 20 years ago. The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) introduced a financial literacy program nearly two decades ago as part of their High School Financial Planning Program. NEFE’s involvement in this literacy program helped to establish Youth Financial Literacy Day, which over the years impressively evolved to Financial Literacy Month.
Joining Forces With Schools
Concepts such as student loans, interest rates, qualifying for a mortgage, credit, and balancing a checkbook are proving to be foreign concepts to many Americans. Recent studies show that around 63% of United States residents could not pass a basic financial literacy quiz – a worrisome figure! Not only are people not attaining financial literacy, but a staggering percent are also not preparing for financial security. According to a recent survey done by the Federal Reserve Board, around 40% of U.S. adults do not have enough money in their savings account to cover a $400 emergency or household expense. Reports and studies such as the above have been receiving the attention they warrant. Many schools are making a change in their curriculum because of it.
Several states have taken steps towards making financial literacy lessons a priority in their schools. Wisconsin took a huge leap in the right direction. This happened when then Governor Scott Walker signed a bill requiring their school districts to include a personal finance curriculum into their kindergarten through 12th grade classes. New Jersey is now requiring schools to integrate financial literacy lessons into each year of middle school, and Iowa and Kentucky are now requiring all their students to pass a financial literacy course as a pre-requisite to high-school graduation. While these efforts are great, and the feedback is so far good, we hope to see other states following suit and passing similar legislation.
Since bankers are experts with money management, being involved in consumer education programs is a natural fit for them. Bankers are stepping up in communities nationwide to participate with financial literacy programs that are directed towards younger children, high school students, adults, as well as senior citizens and those with limited access to financial services.
For example, the Oregon Bankers Association, or the OBA, is pleased to have provided a Financial Education Resource Guide for teachers, bankers, and the general public. Here they provide the tools for managing all aspects of financial life - from creating a budget to managing your credit and protecting your identity.
By setting up a time to go into schools you can give students and faculty information about financial literacy. And, help promote your bank.
Encourage Teachers to Add this To The Curriculum
The topics for lesson plans on financial literacy are seemingly endless. Currently, most financial literacy programs are covering topics such as investing, credit cards, budgeting money, interest, managing debt, and bill paying. Ideas for additional useful topics such as how to file taxes and how to start a business, to name just a few, are plentiful and wait on the sidelines for funding and resources.
Luckily, teachers do not need to have a specialized degree in finance to teach their students a successful financial literacy course. These lessons can be introduced into everyday topics and subjects that students are already learning, and they can be started as young as kindergarten with the concepts of sharing, bartering, and saving for something special. The options for integration are endless, making this necessary change in our school’s curriculum affordable.
Look for simple integrations or information that you can provide to teachers and students.
Want to Get Involved?
You don’t have to be a legislator, educator or finance guru to get involved in Financial Literacy Month. Any bank can help educate the public about financial literacy at any time. This movement can help bring awareness to the problem lacking financial literacy among our children and young adults.
Sometimes referred to as Hill Day, this event has grown from a once small gathering on the steps of Capitol Hill to a large public event that attracts hundreds of participants each year. Hill Day is free, open to the public, and we encourage anyone who wants to get involved.
Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill is usually hosted in April, but this year the event will be held on June 26th, 2019. We would love to hear feedback on how you improved financial literacy in your community. Or, if you’re looking for ideas on how to get the word out, reach out to us for more information on bank marketing.