A new poll from the National Endowment for Financial Education suggests that Americans overwhelmingly believe that financial education at an early age is important, with growing national support for personal finance to be part of every school curriculum.
The survey highlights states such as Florida and Tennessee that have laws requiring schools to teach a financial education course. According to NEFE, 52 bills are currently being proposed in 26 states, including Georgia and Minnesota, regarding personal finance education at the K-12 level.
“These leaders collectively recognize that young people depend on financial literacy to avoid common mistakes in early adulthood,” says NEFE. “While parents play a central role in teaching, influencing, and role modeling, the state curriculum helps close this gap. It is encouraging to see the growing trend of states giving prioritizing financial education in public schools.”
The poll shows that 88% of American adults think their state should require a one-semester or one-year personal finance course before graduating from high school. Another 80% of American adults say they wish they had been required to take such a course in high school.
NEFE finds that 75% of American adults consider spending and budgeting to be among the most important topics to teach in personal finance education, followed by managing credit (55%), saving (49% ) and income (47%).
Students from states that already require a financial education course are more likely to exhibit positive financial behaviors, especially when paired with a well-trained teacher. According to NEFE, the data reinforces the importance of financial education and helps build a solid foundation for how individuals will manage their financial lives as they enter adulthood.
“Conversations about financial topics are essential to start at an early age, as parents need to help shape a child’s mindset and habits around money,” says Anthony Delauney, financial advisor and author of “The No-Regrets Retirement Roadmap” and the children’s book “Dash and Nikki and the Jellybean Game.”
Delauney says the same idea is true for how children relate to food, take care of their bodies, treat others and develop study habits.
“We develop habits very early in life,” he says. “The longer we persist with these habits, the more ingrained they become in us.”
Teaching children to have an open, respectful and comfortable relationship with money at an early age before they start earning it allows them to be better prepared when money starts flowing into their bank accounts, Delauney says. . Since children can develop bad financial habits through outside influences, it is important to start education early at home and at school.
As it stands, students in well-resourced school districts are much more likely to receive personal finance lessons, according to NEFE data. The poll suggests that targeted legislative action, such as state support and access to trusted public resources, can help alleviate unequal learning experiences.
But, NEFE experts warn, just because a state has a financial education mandate in place doesn’t mean it will be effective. The poll suggests that teaching needs to be “focused, appropriate and measured” and that teachers need to be confident and trained to deliver it adequately.
Delauney suggests parents looking to start this conversation with their children “treat them like adults” and allow them to think for themselves. Parents should not force their child to do what they say, but rather allow them to take ownership of the task or discussion.
“Like, take a kid to the grocery store and say we only have $40 to spend on the family’s groceries for the week,” he suggests. “Ask them what they think they should buy. If they immediately go to the candy department, ask them if they think it’s a good idea to have everyone eat only candy or if they want something healthy for the family Help them feel responsible.