Teenagers Beg Officials For Personal Finance Education At School

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Written by Dana Sanchez
personal finance education
Teenagers Beg Officials For Personal Finance Education At School. Credit:Alina Rosanova / istock images

More than half of U.S. states don’t require students to have any personal finance education before graduating, and some students are filling the gap on their own with a little help from innovative financial technology startups.

Just six U.S. states require high school students to take at least one semester of personal finance classes before graduation and 15 more have personal finance in another course, CNBC reported.

U.S. teenagers are aware that they aren’t learning in school how to navigate the U.S. financial system, according to the Junior Achievement Teens and Economic Opportunity Survey released Monday. They know how important financial literacy is and they see an opportunity gap.

The online survey, conducted by Engine Insights between Nov. 17 and 22, asked 1,004 teens age 13 to 17 about diversity, equity and inclusion.

Of the teenage survey respondents, almost half — 45 percent — said that education was the No. 1 way to address economic opportunity, but many aren’t getting good information about personal finance at school. More than 61 percent of teen respondents said they believe people are paid less based on race, ethnicity and gender, and 69 percent said people have a harder time getting financial support to start a business due to race, ethnicity and gender.

“Why do students have to learn so many things in math that they can never apply to the real world? Instead, shouldn’t we be learning more things that focus on financial literacy?” said Kallin Marquez, 13, an eighth grader at Diamond Canyon Middle School in Anthem, Arizona, during the CNBC and Junior Achievement Virtual Summit for a more Equitable and Just Tomorrow.

Sahil Bloom, vice president of Silicon Valley private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners, called for a national mandate around personal finance financial literacy in schools. “There needs to be a basic level of learning these topics that kids get,” Bloom said during the summit.

Financial products designed for teens are increasingly hitting the market, especially now that malls are less available to them, Tearsheets reported. Innovative financial technology startups such as Next Gen Personal Finance are monetizing the gap.

“Self-study is one of the best ways to learn anything,” said Yanely Espinal, director of educational outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance. “If you can find time to shop online and talk to your friends on Instagram, you can find 15 minutes to study personal finance for yourself.”

Banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo offer teen banking solutions. Revolut launched Revolut Junior in March and added a new savings goals feature in October. 

Banking app Step markets itself to 13-to-18-year-olds as their first banking experience. Co-founder and CEO CJ MacDonald was a guest on the Tearsheets podcast and said the technology puts a lot of weight on financial education. The Step site has a Banking 101 tab that includes blogs about budgeting, saving and spending money wisely. 

Step raised $50 million in a Series-B funding round, the comapny announced on Dec. 2. The funding round was led by Coatue Management, big tech executives and new celebrity backers including Andre Iguodala, Kelvin Beachum and Larry Fitzgerald.

Hollywood star and investor Will Smith, co-founder of Dreamers VC, was a returning investor in Step’s series-B, according to a press release. Smith said he knows firsthand the importance of financial literacy since he “hasn’t always had financial stability, and made many mistakes as a young man in that arena.”  

“I’ve tried to instill that same mentality in my own children,” Smith said. “It was hard to find a banking platform that was intuitive and met our needs as a family. We’ve reinvested in Step because not only are their products built specifically for teens but they’ve started an important conversation around financial literacy that kids are actually engaged in.”

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Money is one of those things that often gets overlooked, said Step founder and CEO MacDonald. “You’re just kind of expected to figure it out on your own. A lot of people make costly mistakes in their younger years around credit card debt, student loan debt, and credit. It’s tough to dig out of that hole.”

Another bank for teens, Seattle-based Copper targets 13-to-19-year-olds, encouraging teens to save money by rewarding them with cash when they pay parents back, pass a finance quiz or reach a savings goal.

“Gen Z, unlike prior generations, is hyper-aware of the financial missteps of past generations,” said Eddie Behringer, co-founder and CEO of Copper. “Parents and teens alike acknowledge that current banks don’t teach their generation about money in this critical time before they become adults.”

Read more: Personal Finance Guru Michelle Singletary Explains Why Reparations Are Not A Handout To Black Americans