Basic Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy

Do you think that you can pass a basic financial literacy test?  By the numbers, 1 in 3 of those reading this post in the United States would not pass the test.  Don’t believe me? Give it a shot and let me know in the comments how you fare.  So what does this say about our level of financial literacy?   Financial literacy should be taught from an early age and yet only 5 of the 50 U.S. states require High School students to take a class about money.

Here is the quiz.

State Rankings Financial Literacy
Source:  The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College

Turns out the state of Utah ranks the highest among all states; requiring all High School students to take a semester long financial education course and an assessment to evaluate what students learn from the course.  Just so happens that I overheard a Utah High School student talking about this financial education course and I jumped into the conversation.  I asked about the requirement and he confirmed that students had to take the semester long course and the assessment.  When I probed about the assessment he said that “It was stupid.  They asked questions like, you have $400 what are you going to do with it, spend it or save it?”  In case you are wondering, he thought that the assessment questions were almost rhetorical and that you didn’t need to take the course to know the answers.  If Utah is the gold standard, this Utah child seemed to think that the standard is failing him and others.

If Utah is the gold standard for the U.S., who is the gold standard for the world?  According to the S&P Global FinLit Survey U.S. financial literacy is among the top in the World but Canada comes in first with 68% of the adult population financially literate (also Israel is 68% literate (not shown)).  Worldwide only 33% or 1/3 of the adult population is financially literate.  With such staggeringly low numbers of financial literacy around the world, what are we doing in our circles of influence to solve the problem?  Don’t forget, these are the numbers for basic financial literacy, be fearful of what the numbers would look like if we raised the standard to “intermediate financial literacy.”

Variation of financial literacy around the world
     Source:  S&P Global FinLit Survey

This isn’t the first time that we have discussed this issue on this blog and it most certainly won’t be the last.  We can call it a parent’s responsibility to teach their children financial literacy but that rationale would justify home schooling and government abandonment of public schools.  Financial literacy is a basic human right.  Financial literacy should be a part of the core public education systems around the world.  It is not enough to argue that if we focus more on financial literacy in our schools that some other part of the educational core will have to be neglected.  We are quick to make excuses because we are slow to change.  Change is the new constant.  Change is so constant that we stop realizing how much things are changing, and yet our school systems and curriculums stagnate. Talk to your school principal, write your Senator, do something.  Be an agent for change.  If we are not willing to stand up for change, change will find us, and it will come wearing the face of poverty and exclusion.

Paul Proctor

 

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