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More financial education needed for our kids

We were pleasantly surprised to report that the local emergency shelter, ACES Youth Home in Jasper, is thinking outside the box and giving their kids a dose of something we think all students could benefit from – lessons in financial literacy. 

Last month the shelter took their children (who have been placed in their care through DFCS) to a Junior Achievement facility in Cumming for a day in the life of an adult. They were assigned a marriage status, salary, job, etc., and forced to balance a budget, request loans, and perform other money-management tasks.  

“Foster kids have so many resources and tools for counseling, tutoring, medical needs…” the ACES Director of Development Cristina Patten told us. “Programs like this are not the usual for foster programs. This was more about how to create a successful future than repairing what happened in the past.” 

 Patten said the Junior Achievement facility is usually booked solid, especially during the school year when public school students in Forsyth are in full rotation taking courses there. 

Financial literacy is an area that is grossly overlooked for American youth, and the lack of education in this area leads to glaring problems for them down the road (which are problems in our country now)  – massive and increasing amounts of credit card debt, little to no savings or retirement, rising and crippling student loan debt. Many of these problems can be traced back to borrowers who didn’t understand what they were signing up for or didn’t have the basics to lay out a personal plan that covers monthly costs, allows some for unexpected costs and some for savings.

The lack of financial education early has consequences later in life.

In an article “40 Financial Statistics for 2021,” Intuit Mint Life reports that 59 percent of adults admitted to living paycheck to paycheck in 2019; and 21 percent of adults had no emergency savings. Ideally parents would take time to talk to their children about how to manage their money, but it’s the exception more than it’s the rule – and parents who are not financially literate themselves certainly can’t pass on those lessons. A T. Rowe Price Survey found that only 23 percent of kids surveyed had their parents speak to them about money.

According to the Council for Economic Education’s 2020 study, there has been some progress over the last few years for required financial literacy education in schools – but there is room for improvement. 

•Just 21 states require high school students take a course in personal finance, an increase of four states since 2018.

•The 2019 graduating class reported that while 70 percent of students have some access to personal finance with the option of taking a class, just 17 percent were required to take one full semester of personal finance.

•25 states require high school students take a course in economics, an increase of three states since 2018.

•Five states, plus the District of Columbia, still do not include personal finance in their standards.

In the Pickens County School District there is fortunately at least one financial literacy unit integrated into the economics course, which is required for graduation. The unit on personal finance covers spending and saving choices, banks, interest, risk/return, taxation, credit, risk management for financial loss, and other areas. There was also recent legislation approved that changed the name of Economics to Economics and Personal Finance Literacy. 

Is one unit enough? We’re not sure. What we are sure about is that we support more robust (and more required) financial literacy education in our nation’s schools, and we hope parents will make it more a part of their education at home. Like the ACES director said about their kids, this kind of basic life-skills education will teach children and teens how to create a more successful and brighter future for themselves. 

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