Financial literacy is key for improved economic outlook

Emily Severe

Americans don’t know what to do with their money.

Fewer than 60 percent of adults in the United States are financially literate, meaning roughly half of Americans over the age of 18 cannot adequately answer questions regarding financial decision making. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most personal finance lessons are delivered by parents who may not be able to offer any advice further than telling children to start saving.

Financial education must begin at the elementary level in order to close the gap between Texas and the rest of the country, which lags behind the national average in financial literacy rates by nearly 10 percent.

The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which outline the basic standards for what Texas students should know on a grade-level basis, already incorporates finance lessons as early as fourth grade but does not adequately stress the importance of protecting personal interests. In order to close the gap and positively contribute to the success of those moving into the workforce, we must take on the responsibility of educating our youngest earners.

Studies that measure financial literacy pose questions in four basic categories: inflation, interest, risk diversification, and interest compounding. The disparity in access to quality financial advice at home can be better addressed when schools work to include a heavier emphasis on topics like saving, interest, and working within a budget.

With market accessibility expanding and options for investment becoming increasingly more complex, the prospect of cramming esoteric information into the minds of Texas’ youth seems like a large feat. But straightforward, direct financial advice goes a long way, even for children.

There’s no shortage of information available to parents looking to teach children about money. Warren Buffett advises parents to start teaching money management skills as early as possible, and most websites tend to echo this advice. This is great for those who have parents who are available and who make up the half of Americans who know what they’re talking about, but intervention by schools can be a vital tool for students whose guardians aren’t as accessible or knowledgeable.

The task of Texas’ education force is to sort through the plethora of information available so they can provide students with access to appropriate guidance. While most financial decisions are personal and must be tailored to individual goals, young adults cannot reach financial security without understanding the basics of money management.

Texas plays a huge role in the national economy. The most prudent approach to improving the economic outlook for every Texan is to attack the problem head-on at an early age. Financial ignorance is dangerous — Texas can’t afford to wait until students have more than a daily allowance to manage. Expanding the focus on personal finance through a formal, clearly delineated educational plan is a sure way to contribute to individual prosperity and to reduce the impact of ignorance on the nation as whole.

Emily Severe is a Business Honors junior from Round Rock, Texas.