Where Financial Education Has the Greatest Impact


Schools, Parents Bear Equal Responsibility

Right About MoneyDENVER — April is Financial Literacy Month and for the next few weeks attention will focus on the role financial education plays in creating economic well-being. According to a new survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) in partnership with Right About Money, three in four (74 percent) Americans believe financial instruction in K-12 schools gets the best results in building financial well-being—particularly in high schools (68 percent). Less than half (43 percent) of adults feel teaching financial skills is most effective coming from parents. The survey was conducted online among more than 2,000 U.S. adults by Harris Poll.

"In a perfect world every child would have access to lessons about managing money, but it’s not reasonable to assume that all youth will be exposed to this important education before they leave school,” says Billy Hensley, Ph.D., senior director of education with NEFE. “We have to ensure young people become financially capable as adults. To truly make a difference, financial education must start in the home and then be reinforced in schools. Everyone has responsibility in this process.”

Despite the best efforts of the education community, the reality is only a fortunate few youth are receiving financial education in school. Less than half of states (22) have a requirement in place where a high school course in financial education must be offered, and just seven states have adopted standardized testing specifications, according to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and the Council for Economic Education.

“There are random acts of success where states have implemented effective programs, but we really need more schools to step up and require personal finance instruction as part of their curricula,” says Hensley. “And this isn't’t just a one-time offering. Parents, schools, employers and community organizations all need to provide better access to educational resources throughout a person’s economic lifetime.”

According to the NEFE-Right About Money survey, 31 percent of adults say financial education presented through community centers would offer the best results in improving financial well-being—just one in four adults think the workplace is the appropriate setting.

“Most think financial education works best with young people in schools, as opposed to with all ages at work,” says Dan Kadlec, founder of Right About Money, a media company pioneering coverage of financial literacy issues. “Yet schools are having a difficult time making personal financial instruction a core subject, or even an elective, while big companies are embracing and expanding financial wellness programs at a rapid clip. These workplace programs are relatively new and I expect them to become more widely valued in time.”

The survey finds Americans believe financial education provides many benefits. Nearly half of adults (47 percent) believe financial literacy is most helpful in staying out of debt. Roughly two in five believe financial literacy helps with managing credit (39 percent), sticking to a budget (38 percent), or planning for retirement (37 percent).

“We must improve educational interventions. We have to empower educators with the tools, training and encouragement to overcome reservations about teaching money,” says Hensley. “We need to present financial education when it matters, ensure that it fits the needs of diverse audiences, and that it comes from vetted program materials from trusted, unbiased sources. As a community we also need to show evidence of impact. Are we really affecting behavior change?”

Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of the National Endowment for Financial Education and Right About Money from March 17-21, 2017, among 2,173 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Data were weighted using propensity score weighting to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Find the complete survey methodology, including weighting variables here.

About Right About Money

Right About Money is a media platform focused on the global effort to raise the financial know-how of individuals and promote financial wellness on a broad scale. Our goal is to inform thought leaders and those in the trenches of financial education about trends and best practices, and to advance their understanding of what works best and how to move more quickly towards a comprehensive solution. We offer a free email report with original daily content that presents our take on financial literacy news and events around the world. For more information, visit www.rightaboutmoney.com.

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