The proliferation of credit cards is relatively new, with plastic only becoming widely used around the 1950s. The dramatic shift to easily accessible money via credit cards has changed the way we wield our purchasing power and manage our money. Unfortunately, our education standards haven’t kept up with these changes. We are not providing America’s youth with the education they need to responsibly manage their finances and credit. America needs thorough and effective financial literacy education in its school system.
Without an inclusive and modern financial education, young Americans are being put at risk, making poor financial choices that will have a direct and lasting impact on their future financial health.
A 2012 assessment by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), surveyed 29,000 students in 18 countries and economies. The United States came in at No. 9, in the Students and Money: Financial Literacy Skills for the 21st Century section, revealing that American students ranked below average in financial literacy, with 18 percent of U.S. students unable to perform basic financial literacy tasks. Shanghai (China) schools ranked first in the PISA data, with scores 119 points above the OECD average — the equivalent to nearly three years of schooling. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says Chinese schools perform well because they identify students who are struggling and provide the support those children need.
Financial literacy education in the United States is severely lacking. According to the Council for Economic Education, only 22 states require a high school course in economics, only 14 states require a course in financial education, and a mere 5 percent of students claim to have learned about money from an educator.
How does this lack of knowledge manifest in the real world? It results in irresponsible spending, an increase in debt, inability to make ends meet and overall psychological distress. Seventy-five percent of college students are unaware of late payment penalties on their credit cards and are graduating with an average of $35,200 in education-related debt (student loans and credit card debt). This amount of debt can become a significant stumbling block when it comes to some college graduates’ success. According to Pew Research, the median net worth of college graduates with no student debt is seven times greater than those who graduate with student debt.
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