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News & Tidbits: Utah Gets A+ for Personal Finance Education

April 26, 2018

 

In a report covered by CNBC about the top 10 states in teaching kids about money, Utah came in first.

 

Utah's success makes me happy. I spent my college days there (minus law school) and think highly of the place. I have plenty of friends there who are raising children of their own, so I'm glad to share the good news with them.

 

Missouri, where my own children are being taught, came in at third. I'm sure we'll have some sort of party later tonight to celebrate the news. It's always a party here anyhow. 

 

Now, I don't want to throw water on all the celebration, but there's a lot of work to do in this area.

 

First, the bar is low for getting an A+.

 

The only state that earns an A+ grade from the Champlain Center's top 10 list is Utah. High school students there must take a half-year course dedicated to personal finance and then take an end-of-year exam, administered by the state, to test their knowledge.

 

Don't get me wrong. This requirement is a big step up from where things were when I was in high school. I came out with virtually no understanding of personal finance (or, to be honest, biology or algebra or German or history or Fahrenheit 451).

 

What I'm getting at here is that one course in finance—as helpful as it may be—falls short of what will be required to help students make the adjustment from childhood to adulthood. I'd like to see finance integrated into our studies, particularly the math component, much earlier on.

 

Second, parents are still terrified to talk with their kids about money.

 

About 44 percent of parents are "extremely reluctant" to discuss money with their kids, and 76 percent of children say their parents sometimes confuse them when talking about money, according to a 2017 T. Rowe Price survey.

 

My guess is that parents are going to make the biggest impact in the long run, so we're looking at a missed opportunity when parents don't take the time to talk and teach.

 

But, for those of you in Utah, take heart! Without any outside coercion (of which I'm aware), your state is taking initiative on this important front.

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