Teaching Teens About Dollars and Common Sense
It’s no secret that too many young adults struggle with money. From the high cost of college, to getting that first apartment or house, to managing student debt, it’s increasingly difficult for average young Americans to balance their personal budgets.
That’s why it’s wise for young people to start understanding finances early.
State Representative Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced a bill that would do just that. The proposed legislation would add a personal finance course to the list of graduation requirements for high school students in Minnesota. It’s a good idea for teens to have a solid foundation from which to make financial decisions as they move into adulthood.
While discussing the bill, Hassan used herself as an example of why it matters. She recently told the House Education Policy Committee that she immigrated to the United States from Somalia more than 20 years ago and graduated from high school here without learning anything about the finance. Then she went to college and soon struggled with debt.
Hassan’s bill would change state graduation requirements by requiring students to take a credited personal finance course during their senior year of high school and a government and citizenship course during their senior year. their first or last year of high school.
The personal finance course would include, but not be limited to, explaining the household budget; the mechanics of loans, debt and interest; residential mortgages; tax returns; student loan debt; and understand paychecks and payroll deductions.
The requirements would come into effect for teenagers starting in ninth grade in the 2023-2024 school year. The current law only encourages the teaching of civics and nothing requires students to take a stand-alone finance course.
But there should be — in part because of the wide gap between communities of color and the majority white population in jobs, income, property and other indicators of wealth. Requiring financial education could help reduce these gaps.
Studies of general financial literacy show that many adults in all age groups also struggle. As a result, many parents are unable to teach their children financial responsibility. Students from all walks of life should be exposed to basic economic education while in school.
Requiring students to educate themselves about personal finances will help them make better choices about what they can and cannot afford when making decisions about higher education or starting their own homes.
In support of the bill, Tim Ranzetta, of Next Generation Personal Finance, said his organization has worked with about 1,300 teachers in Minnesota and with educators in other states who need personal finance lessons. He said just over 6% of Minnesota students currently have the ability to learn about personal finance, and if Minnesota adopts the requirement, it would become the 11th state to do so.
James Redelsheimer, an economics teacher at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School who teaches a personal finance course, told lawmakers that many parents of his students said they wished they had taken a similar course at school. He supports the measure because the course teaches skills that can help “break the cycle of poverty and build generational wealth”.
During legislative testimony last month, representatives from several education groups said the bill was “too prescriptive”. Although they believe financial education is important, they oppose making it mandatory and believe that decisions about courses are best made at the local level. Several Republican lawmakers on the committee shared that view.
However, R-Grove City representative Dean Urdahl is on board. A former teacher who has long supported the requirement for a civics education, Urdahl says it’s important to establish both personal finance and civics requirements.
“Although many schools in Minnesota offer some form of financial education (sometimes as part of another course), that doesn’t mean students are taking it,” he told an editorial writer. “If we think this is important and needs to be learned by our students, we should demand it.”