Danielle Orange-Scott is a former 2nd grade teacher and currently a high school counselor and educator at her alma mater, Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, California.
In 2016, a report by Bank of America demonstrated an alarming statistic: Only 16% of millennials age 18-26 were optimistic about their financial futures. In the same year, Fortune published an article stating two in three Americans can't pass a basic financial literacy test.
A year later, Vince Shorb, one of the country’s leading advocates for promoting financial literacy and a thought leader in teaching and scaling financial education programming, asked 1,100 young adults age 18-24 what high-school-level course would benefit their life the most. Over 50% responded “money management.”
As of 2018, only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance. Out of the 17 states providing personal finance courses, only five of them received an A when graded on the state's effectiveness at producing financially literate high school graduates. What’s worse, studies have repeatedly shown students without a financial education are more likely to have low credit scores and other financial problems.
The surveyed millennials in 2016 had a reason to be worried.
It seems we are missing extremely valuable opportunities to teach the skills that will help create financially responsible citizens. Not only are we missing the mark in our current curriculums, but we are also waiting too late.
Numerous studies on child cognitive development have highlighted the benefits of early exposure to language, role-playing, and even mathematics. Over the first few years of life, the brain grows rapidly, allowing children to learn quickly — even more so than adults. Unfortunately, as we age, underutilized synaptic connections are deleted in a process called synaptic pruning, and we’ve missed our chance to lay a firm foundation to complex concepts.
What are we waiting for? Every day, we are surprised by how wonderfully smart and apt our children are. We teach them how to spell abnormally long words, watch as they re-enact even the most detailed situations with their toys, are constantly astounded by their ability to memorize complex combinations for their favorite video games, and have likely bartered with a toddler at least once.
Why are we waiting to teach them the foundations of financial literacy and other subjects that can improve their quality of life?
Learning about business allows children to develop responsibility, exercise creativity and develop social skills, and teaching financial literacy reinforces the STEM skills they are already learning in elementary school and sometimes even earlier.
Babies learn sounds and expressions solicit emotional rewards like hugs. Toddlers demonstrate innovation and entrepreneurship when they push boundaries and imitate their surroundings. The question of whether we can teach children financial literacy is answered. Yes, we can, and we should.
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to wait for high school or even college to learn how to manage your money? Let’s not make them wait. Let’s teach them now.
It’s like my dear friend and business partner Urina Harrell says, “No matter what career a child decides to have, a solid knowledge of business is important because it is integrated into every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Concepts like financial literacy and marketing shouldn’t be reserved for business majors and MBAs. You market yourself when you go on a job interview, and you need knowledge of financial management to pay your bills on time and manage your money.”
I think we should give our children the best possible chance of living a financially stable life. Don’t you?