Personal Finance

Personal Finance Classes Should Absolutely Be Required for Students

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance, Personal Development
32 Articles Written
Close up photo of young happy students with books and notes outdoors. Smart young guy and girl in University campus. Learning and education for young people.

The anticipated age for retirement in our society is 65 years old. At this point, one is expected to have saved a nest egg large enough to live off from that point forward.

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

Most retirees today expect a modest income to pad what they’ll receive in Social Security. However, the average wealth a retiree exits the workforce with is $200,000. How long do you think $200,000 would last in today’s world?

The Current State of Americans’ Personal Finances

As the boomer generation begins retiring, we find ourselves in a world with fewer company-sponsored pensions and rising university and housing costs. And then there’s the whole healthcare thing. It’s expensive enough at any given time, but costs tend to rise significantly in the last third of one’s life.

Add to that the uncertain future state of Social Security. What’s more, Forbes recently reported almost 44 percent of Americans could not fund a surprise or emergency $400 expense.

Almost half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck at this point, where losing a job or some other life-changing event could have severe negative effects on their financial and personal situations. On top of that, 43 percent of student loan borrowers are unable to make payments on their loans, and 38 percent of U.S. households have credit card debt averaging $16,000 or more. Meanwhile, interest rates are averaging nearly 16.5 percent.

So how is anyone able or expected to save for retirement with a financial situation such as this? Who can be trusted to help the public achieve their retirement goals? And what does any of this have to do with high school students?

Related: How I Paid Off $85,000 in 16 Months

group of young adults outside looking at a sunset

Financial Literacy in Today’s Society

Has anyone reading this heard someone tell you they keep a balance on their credit card and pay little by little to “build their credit” faster? How about people who refuse pay raises because it will bump them into the next tax bracket? I’ve heard this many times from younger generations—and even those my age!

The state of financial affairs in the U.S. highlights the fact that we have a significant need for:

  • Assistance with budgeting, spending, and saving
  • Education in terms of building and preserving good credit
  • Help preparing for a major financial decision (i.e., college)
  • Advice about applying for or managing various loans (e.g., credit cards, auto, mortgage, student)

High schoolers often have a very short credit history, if any at all. Yet they’re about to be responsible for their own rent, utilities, and food (even if they skirt those responsibilities for a while by living in the dorms).

How many students entering college have even done laundry by themselves, let alone been responsible for their finances? How many do you think fall victim to those high interest credit cards that companies tempt them with all over campus?

How many kids talk about money at home with their parents? How many even have parents to look up to with regard to good personal finance practices?

Related: Should You Pay Down Student Debt or Start Investing?

Man counting college savings fund, tuition fee or student loan with calculator. Education price and expenses concept. Money and papers on table. Calculating budget and planning finance.

This Is an Emergency

Americans are struggling with debt and other financial matters now more than ever before. In fact, the amount of debt per household has hit an historical high.

All this, but we've been in a bull market for nearly a decade since the Great Recession. If we've been experiencing this type of stock market growth and real estate appreciation, why then are Americans still suffering?

The truth remains that Americans are saddled with what is termed “bad debt,” such as student debt (some debate that this is bad debt even though it cannot be discharged through bankruptcy), medical debt, and possibly the most lethal, consumer debt (due to high interest rates).

Holding debt in and of itself is not necessarily the bad part, but the delinquency rate of these debts has reached a six-year high according to ZeroHedge.com. It’s still more difficult to get a mortgage than it was in 2008, but at the same time, this means there are more people renting and paying more into their housing costs than they perhaps need to be.

In addition, of these delinquent debts, student loans are far and away the most common. As such, in a Bank of America survey of young adults, only 16 percent ages 18 to 26 are very optimistic about their financial future.

What’s more, PricewaterhouseCoopers found 54 percent of millennials are worried they won’t be able to pay their student debts—despite a third of them making over $75,000 a year!

What this all comes down to is many people incur the very debts they’re unable to pay throughout life at the beginning of adulthood.

We Need to Take Action

How’s anyone ever supposed to rebound from their student debt if they don’t have any good financial habits to begin with? Well, the fact is many of them don’t rebound—even those with high salaries.

More than ever before, adults are moving back in with their parents, living with housemates, delaying marriage and starting families, and so on. Admittedly, these life milestones aren’t always put off because of finances, but studies have shown financial challenges are playing a role for many.

Some may argue high school and college age students aren’t interested in personal finance, but I beg to differ. In the seven years I taught management college classes, I offered bonus material at the request of my students.

Some of them asked about post-college life in general, and so, my personal finance unit was born. There was a clear attitude and energy change every time I started discussing personal finance in the classroom.

I like to think my classes were engaging in general, but pencils were out and hands were in the air every time I started on this topic. Ultimately, students are rarely educated about it and for many, it was never even on their radar as something important to know about. But as an increasing number of college grads are saddled by debt, more young adults desperately want to know how to avoid it.

Debt is an emergency at this point. Students pursuing a four-year degree are encouraged to take on debt totaling six digits in some cases before they ever hold a full-time job. They're graduating with a negative net worth before they've even had a chance.

If we inform our high schoolers of the consequences of their financial actions, perhaps we’ll be able to foster healthier financial practices from the get-go.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Looking for a plan to achieve financial freedom in just five to 10 years? Even with a full-time job, median income, or negative net worth, you can accumulate a lifetime of wealth in a short period of time. Set yourself up for life with this bestselling book, written by the CEO of BiggerPockets, Scott Trench! Pick up your copy from the BiggerPockets bookstore today!

______________________________________________________________________________________

Were you taught about personal finance at a young age? When do you think this type of education should begin?

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

 

A longtime writer and consumer of all things related to the FIRE (financial independence retire early) movement, Chris Prit went from working 50+ hours a week to less than 20 thanks to her real est...
Read more
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 1 year ago
    In principle, I totally agree. Students graduate without even a basic foundation in personal finance including the structure and flow of a tax return. I have even taught personal finance classes to high school students in summer programs. That’s when I discovered I have to teach basic interest first. They cannot even tell what 10% of a given number is. However, even after they have been taught, they promptly forget it all before they are in a position to implement any of it. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-04-30/why-basic-financial-literacy-is-so-elusive “…financial-literacy classes are mandated by 19 states in order to graduate from high school, up from 13 states eight years ago. This is well-meaning, but without a radical break from how financial literacy is taught, it is destined to be ineffective.” If we are going to teach financial literacy, perhaps comprehensive case studies would be a good approach.
    Justin Siddall Rental Property Investor from Pensacola, Fl
    Replied over 1 year ago
    I completely agree 100%! Somewhere in the school system, in a generation before mine, Financial Literacy has just been assumed that because students were taught algebra they would be able to translate basic math knowledge to all the nuances of personal cash flow, budgeting, saving, investing, debt, taxes and all the strategies that are available to them in each category. I offer a financial course to my sailors and I named it “Financial Freedom: Everything You Wish They’d Taught You in High School and More.” Even this course has to be such a broad stroke that I meet with them individually to cover personal goals and a strategy to accomplish those goals. I’ve literally been asked what’s a savings account for? I can feel the tide changing as the word and movement spread for people to gain some control over their finances. When I talk about it as well, ears perk and silent questions get asked. The movement needs to be overt question of holy crap why was I never taught this! My goal in all of this is that those within my sphere of influence can find the desire for knowledge BEFORE a personal financial crisis strikes. Thanks for an article calling it out!
    John Murray from Portland, Oregon
    Replied over 1 year ago
    The millennial generation has been sold a bill of goods by the education bureaucracy. The education bureaucracy is for profit machine that preys upon the inexperienced in life. The education bureaucracy instills a narrow band of life skill sets for huge profit. Running a financial deficit early in life creates a success stumbling block. Taxpayer support for each bachelor degree can reach $60K-$100K per student for public universities. Here is what should be taught, do not narrow your life skill sets, learn the tax system forwards (target AGI learning) and backwards, put hard work as a priority and most of all the middle class should not be your goal. The education bureaucracy is a for profit machine as the prison system, you must understand this.