Young people need a financial education — everything from using credit cards to saving

This has been a crusade of mine for decades as I find many people, not just the young, simply lack any concept on how to match their income to their expenses.

Young People Are Starving for Classes on Finance, Tips on Taxes

  • Financial literacy skills have been slipping for all Americans
  • Benefits of early financial education extend over a lifetime
It helps to have a few classes on personal finance.
It helps to have a few classes on personal finance.Photographer: ADEM ALTAN/AFP

Three out of four recent high school graduates said they wish a class on personal finance had been a mandatory part of their education, according to a study released this month by Experian. Young people were mostly keen to learn how to save money, manage expenses and file taxes, the consumer-credit reporting company found in a survey of 18- and 19-year-olds.

Financial literacy skills have declined for all Americans in the past decade, most noticeably for those ages 18 to 34, according to a recent Finra study. This is especially worrying as young people pile on debt to pay for college and living expenses.


Young Americans owed $920 billion as of the second quarter of 2019

Source: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax

Note: 18-29 year olds; Numbers are rounded.

Young people would benefit from both a structured learning environment and technology-based tools explaining the basics of school loans, credit cards, car buying, taxes and renting an apartment, according to Rod Griffin, director of public education for Costa Mesa, California-based Experian.

“It can take years to recover if you learn by making mistakes,” Griffin said in a phone interview.

Some areas already have educational standards in place. Nineteen states require students to take classes in personal finance before they graduate high school, up from 17 last year, a study by the Council for Economic Education found.

Benefits of an early financial education extend over a lifetime. “College students who took a personal finance course in high school were more likely to save and pay off their credit cards and less likely to max out credit cards,” the Financial Literacy and Education Commission said in its 2019 study.

Even Hollywood has taken notice. A 10-part series from executive producer Ashton Kutcher called “Going From Broke” will focus on the financial struggles of Los Angeles-based millennials. The TV show, set to begin streaming Oct. 17 on Crackle, aims to teach young people to “become the CEO of their own lives.”

There’s definitely a market. Some 49% of the young adults in Experian’s survey said they found financial topics interesting or somewhat interesting, while 11% said they loved learning about them.

— With assistance by Alexandre Tanzi

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