In an age of constant — and often conflicting — information, getting a solid financial education can seem like an overwhelming goal. Much of the responsibility to learn the language of finance continues to fall on the individual, with few resources to ease the burden.
As the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain recently discovered, only 20 states in the U.S. offer what they deem to be an adequate financial education in their schools.
"We would not allow a young person to get in the driver’s seat of a car without requiring drivers education," the study's researchers wrote in the introduction, "and yet we allow our youth to enter the complex financial world often without any related education."
Such a lax view toward a central part of adulthood can be dangerous, and many teachers and finance experts are calling for a greater effort to teach money skills.
“The current generation of children will contend with many monetary issues that their parents and grandparents did not have to face,” writes Victor Luckerson in his article for Time titled “Making personal finance cool to kids.”
Luckerson highlights a school in Chicago, Henderson Elementary, that has introduced financial education curriculum beginning in the third grade. The program, which is now offered at 145 elementary schools in Chicago, focuses on “four pillars of finance” — saving, spending, donating and investing.
There is one snag, however, because finding good teachers to help students understand finance is hard, being that most adults themselves receive little formal training on the subject.
“The key to effective financial education is going to be effective teachers,” Laura Levine, president of the financial education advocacy site, Jumpstart, told Luckerson.
“That goes beyond just teaching them how to use a product, but giving them an underlying knowledge.”
For those communities without the benefit of required personal finance courses in their schools, other passionate experts are seeking to create easy access to sound financial resources.
Alexa von Tobel, founder of the online financial advice website LearnVest, has fought hard to educate financial novices, aiming her content particularly at women.
New York Times columnist Tara Siegel Bernard recently profiled Tobel in her article “Aiming to bring financial planning to the masses,” which explores the tricky business of online financial advisory sites.
“Most financial planners focus on wealthier people, whom they can charge $1,000 to $3,000 for a financial plan,” Bernard writes. But Tobel’s ultimate goal is to convince common consumers that they can not only benefit from the advice finance experts have to offer, but they can afford it, too.
“Financial advice shouldn’t be a luxury,” Tobel told Bernard in the profile that ran Friday. “We want to disrupt the industry.”
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