Financial capability is a crucial skill for today’s youth, who are increasingly facing higher levels of debt and financial challenges. It is essential to educate young individuals about financial management to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed financial decisions. This article will explore the significance of teaching financial literacy to youth, the areas they need guidance in, and resources available to support their financial education.
The Rising Debt Among Youth
One of the primary reasons why teaching financial capability is crucial is the growing debt burden faced by young individuals. According to recent statistics, the average student loan debt for college graduates in 2022 was $37,574. Additionally, the average college student carries approximately $3,100 in credit card debt. These figures highlight the need to empower youth with the knowledge and skills to manage their finances effectively and avoid falling into debt traps.
Lack of Formal Financial Guidance
Unfortunately, many young individuals have not received formal or informal guidance on financial matters. This lack of guidance can be particularly challenging for those in low-income households, who may have limited access to financial services. Without suitable consumer protection and school-based financial education, youth from low-income households are at risk of falling victim to scams, high-interest rate loans, and debt.
Five Key Areas of Financial Education
Educating low-income individuals in financial management can be an effective way to improve their knowledge and skills in five critical areas:
- Predatory lending practices: Teaching youth about predatory lending practices can help them recognize and avoid exploitative loan schemes and protect themselves from excessive debt.
- Public and work-related benefits: Educating young individuals about public and work-related benefits can help them understand the financial support systems available to them and make informed decisions about utilizing these resources.
- Banking practices: Teaching youth about banking practices, such as opening and managing bank accounts, can empower them to effectively handle their finances, save money, and access financial services.
- Savings and investing strategies: Providing guidance on savings and investing strategies can instill the importance of setting financial goals, saving for the future, and making wise investment decisions.
- Credit use and interest rates: Educating youth about credit use and interest rates can help them understand the implications of borrowing money, managing credit cards, and building a positive credit history.
Informal Learning and Individual Concerns
In addition to formal financial education, young individuals often learn about money informally through socialization and observation. They can observe and learn from their caregivers, influential adults, and peers. However, this informal learning may not consistently cover essential financial topics.
Understanding what youth do not know about financial topics and identifying their specific concerns is crucial. A survey conducted among a diverse group of youth and adults revealed that concerns varied depending on their background. For example:
- Pregnant or parenting teens and teens in the juvenile justice system or on probation were most concerned about learning how to save money for a home.
- Migrant teens and teens in school were most interested in learning how to save money for college.
The survey also highlighted a disconnect between what adults thought youth should learn and what youth prioritized. While almost 70 percent of adults believed that teens should learn about completing and filing tax return forms, only 39 percent of teens were interested in this topic. However, more than half of teens in the juvenile justice system or on probation and nearly half of migrant teens showed an interest in learning about tax returns.
Meeting Youth’s Financial Education Needs
To effectively teach financial literacy to youth, it is essential to cater to their specific concerns and preferences. While a majority of teens express a desire to learn about money, they also prefer easy and convenient ways of learning. This includes strategies that utilize technology and minimize time commitment.
Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to support financial education efforts for youth. Here are some notable examples:
- Money as You Grow: Parents and caregivers can utilize the Money as You Grow resources, including tips, conversation starters, and activities, to help children develop strong money skills and habits.
- Meet the Money Monsters!: The Money Monsters provide free publications and reading guides to help children learn about financial literacy and develop essential money skills.
- Your Financial Path to College Graduation: This tool assists students in understanding their financial aid offers, planning for college costs, estimating debt, comparing offers from different schools, and making informed decisions.
- Map Your Money Journey Survey: Developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), this self-assessment tool helps young people understand their own financial capability, identify areas for growth, and reflect on how to improve their financial skills.
- Teaching Young People About Money: Tips for Parents and Caregivers: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides tips and tools for parents to teach their children about earning, spending, and saving money at different ages.
- What’s in Your Piggy Bank? Motivating Young First-Time Workers to Save: This webinar highlights the First-Time Workers program, which promotes saving at work for young adults, as a way to increase overall workplace saving.
- Hit the Road – A Financial Adventure: This interactive virtual road trip game challenges users to save and spend money wisely as they complete financial challenges along the way.
Teaching financial literacy to youth is essential in today’s society, where young individuals face increasing levels of debt and financial challenges. By providing formal and informal education in critical areas such as predatory lending, public benefits, banking practices, savings and investing, and credit use, we can empower youth to make informed financial decisions. Additionally, understanding their specific concerns and preferences can help tailor financial education efforts to meet their needs effectively. With the availability of various resources and tools, parents, caregivers, and educators can play a crucial role in equipping youth with the necessary financial skills and habits for a successful future.