In a country with a national debt of about $30 trillion, it’s no surprise that many Americans struggle to set—and stick to—a budget. This past June, Rhode Island officials passed a bill requiring schools to tackle the problem. They say it pays to start young.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) reports that 60% of U.S. adults feel anxious when thinking about finances. Over 75% live from one paycheck to the next. They have no savings or spending strategies. The Bible addresses planning ahead—and while God never wants His people to worry (Matthew 6:34), He also says, “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost?” (Luke 14:28)
FINRA’s studies show that a key factor in money stress is lack of knowledge about how to handle money. “Many young people just don’t understand . . . credit and debt—what it means to have a mortgage that’s underwater or how high interest rates can bury them in debt for their entire lives,” says Representative Mia A. Ackerman. “They don’t understand that paying the minimum on their credit card bills will keep them paying forever.”
State Senator Sandra Cano agrees. “How can we expect our children to become financially successful adults if we do not teach them the core aspects of our financial system when they are in school?” she asks.
On that front, Tolman High School in Rhode Island is ahead. The school already offers courses in financial literacy. Tolman salutatorian Hanatha Konte realized she need help with money when she landed her first job. “The classes really broke everything down for me in a way I understood.”
Rhode Island legislators want other schools to take note. They’re requiring public education institutions “to develop instruction standards on personal finance or consumer economic topics” according to the state’s website. Topics for the standards include budgeting, investing, saving, using credit, and more.
“Financial literacy is key to a young person’s future success,” Governor Dan McKee told a group gathered at Tolman for the bill signing. “This legislation [helps] us ensure that every Rhode Island high school student is equipped with tools to prepare them for economic opportunity after graduation.”
The idea for developing finance standards was the brainchild of RI General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. “As Treasurer and a former public school teacher, I know firsthand the positive long-term impact providing this education will have on our state,” Magaziner says. “Now more than ever, a strong working knowledge of personal finance is essential for young people as they enter adulthood.”