Continuing Conversations: The Role of Education in Personal Finance



.S. adults should not be overlooked. While it would be easy to point the finger at 2020, living paycheck to paycheck in America is old hat even among those with higher incomes, NPR reports. This is a multifaceted issue, as U.S. wages are not keeping pace with the rising cost of living1, yet the impact of early personal finance education is measurable.

According to CNBC, new research by economists at Montana State University revealed that high school graduates with exposure to personal finance courses become savvier loan borrowers, are more likely to apply for aid and to obtain grants and scholarships to avoid amassing large, high-interest student loans and credit cards2. MICPA Financial Literacy Task Force Member and author of “Let’s Be Fair” and upcoming release, “A Seed to Sew” Robyn Fuller, CPA, experienced similar observations amid her own studies.

“Overall, from writing my book and the research I’ve done, it’s not very common for public schools to offer lessons early on about what finances are,” she recalled. Further, Fuller explains how her college experience first made her aware of the racial gap as it specifically relates to finance. “When I got to college, there were not a lot of people that looked like me going after those types of career fields…and the further along I went, the less I would see people that looked like me.”

While disparity among women and minorities continues to be a real issue, one at the heart of her book, Fuller adds that money impacts closing social gaps, period. “We can’t just make it about race and gender…we have to look at all kinds of spectrums.”

Yet, as the general public seems to be gaining more awareness of its need for greater money management skills, only six states require a standalone personal finance course for high school graduation while just 21 require students to take courses which integrate the subject into other coursework, CNBC reports. Experts claim that integration is the most important step, and that mandating financial literacy education is more important than the format2.

While integration is an important first step, Fuller contends that whatever the overarching subject of a particular class might be, those concepts are the most likely to stick. “If you’re going to that course every day, you’re focused on that subject. It [integrated coursework] is not as effective to me.”

She further explains that experiences outside the classroom are also impactful. Kids pay attention to their parents’ actions, and the financial behaviors exhibited set an example that can point them in the right direction in terms of financial wellbeing. Emerging technologies, such as apps that help teach kids about earnings, budgeting and savings through chores and allowances, could also play a role as useful tools but Fuller expresses concern that adopting those technologies might require a certain level of preexisting financial savvy that some parents may not possess.

“I think there are some parents that are at a disadvantage, that don’t know a lot about it themselves.” Which is why it all circles back to public education, however, when it comes to pushing for greater emphasis on finance in public education, Fuller concedes, “I don’t think there’s an easy way to do this.”

Legislation is an obvious, straightforward approach, according to Fuller, as local governments are the deciding entity on public school matters, including curriculum frameworks, but lobbying requires resources and awareness. Part of that awareness, Fuller says, is simply talking about it. “Having these conversations versus not having them is the mindset we should all have.”

You can join this conversation and others related to personal finance by following the MICPA on social media and sharing your insight, resources, and ideas as we continue our coverage of Financial Literacy Month. Also, watch out for more articles like this in our weekly enewsletter.

  1. Sleyukh, Alina. “Paycheck-to-Paycheck Nation…NPR. 16 Dec. 2020. Accessed on 12 Apr. 2021.
  2. Rosenbaum, Eric. “How Each U.S. State is Shaping the Personal Finance…CNBC. 5 Feb. 2020. Accessed on 12 Apr. 2021.

Source: MICPA

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