Should We Teach Financial Literacy?

I just read an interesting article that basically said that teaching financial literacy in school has no impact on kids learning to make healthy money choices. If you’re interested, here it is.

The article quoted Professor Emeritus Lewis Mandell who apparently has done over 15 years of research on the topic. And I sort of agree with his assessment. One or two classes in high school is not going to create adults who all of a sudden know how to make decisions that will benefit them financially. But I also think that one or two classes is better than nothing.

Here’s the thing. What teaches kids how to make decisions that will benefit them financially is actually having kids make decisions about money…their money. And it needs to start in the elementary years because it takes years to learn. Years of making choices, learning from mistakes, setting and achieving goals, tracking money, finding ways to earn, understanding the power of compound interest, beginning to invest. In other words, it takes a sustained effort of doing money that teaches the best lessons.

And the professor agrees with me! As depressing as it was to hear him say that we shouldn’t even bother teaching kids financial literacy in school, a glimmer of hope came from his suggestion that giving kids real-life, hands-on experiences could actually make a difference. Of course it does.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to find ways to reach kids through our educational system. For a lot of kids, it’s the only information about financial literacy they’ll get…until they begin to learn it all on their own.


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