Children learn best from the constant drumbeat of money lessons that should be taught at home. If you’re generous, chances are your children will be givers. If you spend your weekends at the mall, they’ll follow your lead. Children often overuse credit by watching you shop till you drop with plastic. Or they become great savers by observing you save like your future financial life depended on it.
In an ideal world, financial literacy starts at home. But we don’t live in this world. Many parents are unwilling, overwhelmed or ill-equipped to teach their children good financial habits.
So we have turned to educators to get the job done. But where are the educators getting the materials they use to teach your children?
Most likely from financial businesses with an agenda. Even the best of the financial literacy material is created by businesses with a bias. How could they not be bias? A credit card company or bank won’t tell your children to hate debt. They are in the business of loaning money.
The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain recently issued a report on high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia examining efforts to improved financial literacy.
Turns out the schools aren’t doing such a great job, the center concluded. Only five states earned an A.
“What the grading shows is that we have a long way to go before we are a financially literate nation,” the report said. “Sadly, 27 states received grades C, D or F. Less than half were given grades that you would want your children to bring home from school — grades A or B, and 30 percent had grades D or F.”
And a good grade doesn’t mean the schools are providing an adequate level of instruction, the report said.
“The center estimates that approximately one-third of Grade B states require more than one-quarter of a half-year course in high school to be allocated to personal finance topics,” according to the report. “This means that students in eight of these Grade B states only receive between seven and 13 hours of personal finance instruction in high school. In fact, our research identifies just 11 states (with Grades A or B) that require 15 or more hours of personal finance education in high school.”
Next week, Mon. Jan. 8, the Newseum (Knight TV Studio, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.) will host a special panel discussion on “The State of Financial Literacy Education Today.” If you live or work in the Washington area and you’re involved in teaching students about money or you’re a parent who can get the day off, you need to come to this event.
The panel discussion, which starts at 10:30 a.m., is free but you have to register to attend. Click this link to RSVP. For questions or information about attending this program, email Meagan Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you can’t attend in person, the event will be live streamed at Newseum.org.
I’ll be on the panel along with Peggy Collins, co-host of Bloomberg Finance; Susan Linn, founder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Lauren Willis, author of “The Financial Education Fallacy and Against Financial Literacy Education.” The panel discussion will be moderated by Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute.
The panel discussion will follow a 10 a.m. news conference announcing that several major consumer groups and child advocacy experts are giving their thumbs up to FoolProof, a free financial literacy curriculum for middle and high school students.
What’s unique about this web-driven, interactive online resource for middle and high school students?
It wasn’t created by any bank or financial institution. It was developed by the FoolProof Foundation’s Walter Cronkite Project and its primary mission is to create unbiased financial literacy material.
“If financial literacy education works as it is now taught, why are kids carefree with their money rather than cautious?” asks Public Citizen, which has endorsed FoolProof.
FoolProof: “We teach kids to be skeptical of anyone or any company that wants to touch their money or their welfare.”
Want to know more about Foolproof? Here is some of my reporting on the resource:
And, giving their seal of approval of FoolProof’s curriculum: Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen, National Association of Consumer Advocates, and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a first-ever endorsement.
Come to the panel or watch live. We have to do a better job of preparing our children to be good money managers. Add this mission to your New Year’s resolutions for 2018.
Color of Money question of the week
My best money manager was my grandmother Big Mama. So, who taught you the most about money? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state.
Live chat today
Speaking of financial literacy, for my first chat of the year, I have a guest, Michele Cagan, author of “The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance.”
Cagan will join me to talk about her book, the Color of Money Book Club pick for last month. She’ll also answer your personal finance questions.
Here’s my review of the book: Want to better manage your money? This book will show you how.
Join the discussion live from noon to 1 p.m. Here’s the link.
Money mantras for 2018
I’ve asked readers to share some of their favorite financial quotes.
Cecil Hale from Dallas: “Pinch the nickels and dimes, invest them wisely and the dollars will take care of themselves.”
Frank Miles of Etters, Penn.: “Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand.”
This is a tried and true quote and one to think about when it comes to bitcoin.
Mitch Cohen of Fairfax, Virginia, who is 54 and retiring this year: “If investing is ‘exciting.’ you’re likely gambling and not investing.”
Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.
Stay informed about your money.
In addition to this newsletter, read and share my weekly personal finance columns.
— Start your new year with these money mantras
More favorite financial quotes from readers.
— Why the money-conscious should beware the after-Christmas sale
Read this column if you think a sale is always a good thing.
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.