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Financial Illiteracy is a Major Threat to America's Future

A review of current statistics on the financial literacy of American youth, and their families, reveals a shocking lack of money management skills. The inescapable conclusion is that America’s latest generation of young adults is poorly prepared to face the economic realities which are about to confront them. Without financial literacy consumers can’t make informed choices about major purchases, such as homes and automobiles, nor prepare themselves for retirement. Lacking basic financial knowledge means that voters can’t accurately judge the impact of economic policies or the qualifications of candidates to deal with such issues.

Consider these facts:

  • 50.8% of college-age adults agree with this statement: “I have experienced repeated, unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or stop excessive money use.” MyVesta consumer education organization survey, 2002.

  • New college students are offered an average of 8 credit cards the first week of school. U. S. Senate research, 2003.

  • 45% of college students have credit card debt, the average being $3,066. U.S. Senate research, 2003.

  • University administrators state that they lose more students to credit card debt than to academic failure. Nellie Mae survey, 2003.

  • More young adults filed for bankruptcy than graduated from college in 2001. The American Banking Association.

By their college years, America’s youth have already encountered the dangers of serious indebtedness, yet they lack the education necessary to address this and other important economic issues:

  • Nearly 2/3 of American adults don’t know that in times of inflation money loses its value; ½ of American adults don’t know that the stock market provides ordinary people with the opportunity to buy stock; ¼ of American adults confuse “budget deficit” with “national debt.” National Council on Economic Education, 2003.

  • 80% of parents believe that schools provide classes on money management and budgeting. JumpStart Coalition survey, 2003.

  • Only 21% of students between the ages of 16 and 22 say they have ever taken a personal finance course through school. American Savings Education Council survey, 2001.

  • Only 4 states require students to complete a course that includes personal finance before graduating from high school. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, U.S. Department of Labor, 2003.

The shocking disconnect between parental expectations concerning the role of schools in ensuring financial literacy and the reality emphasize a crucial gap in the economic training of our youth. Nor are many parents able to provide such vital knowledge at home. America has made a huge investment in placing computers in the classroom and teaching students how to use them. The hard truth is that none of that investment compensates for the lack of economic knowledge needed for sound citizenship and the safeguarding of one’s family finances. Yet, this is the generation which will have to face the crisis in Social Security, have to pay off the unprecedented national debt, and have figure out how to deal with issues like the foreign trade imbalance and it’s impact on employment and interest rates.

These facts, and their effect on all of us, are the reason that Junior Achievement, and similar organizations, are bringing the basics of the free enterprise system, personal finance realities and work-force preparation to students in grades K-12. Volunteers from the local business community combine their real-world experience with Junior Achievement’s accredited curriculum to enhance the education of more than 3,000,000 students in the U.S.A.

Organizations like Junior Achievement, dedicated to ending financial illiteracy, need the support of all of us. By volunteering, providing resources and working to get America’s education system to respond to this vital need, we can build the foundation for a better future for each of us and our nation as a whole.

Don Sizemore is the Development Director for Junior Achievement of Sacramento, the capitol of the world’s 5th largest economy.

Submitted by:

Donald A. Sizemore

Donald A. Sizemore is Director of Development for Junior Achievement of Sacramento, which is dedicated to ending financial illiteracy amongst students k-12 in the capitol of the fifth largest economy in the world. Mr. Sizemore has been on the staff of the Governor of California and has also been a senior staffer with the California State Senate, where he helped draft legislation.jasac.orgdsizemore@jasac.org





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