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Experts Say Teaching Kids About Money Makes...Cents

Steve Buissinne https://pixabay.com/en/users/stevepb-282134/
Credit Steve Buissinne https://pixabay.com/en/users/stevepb-282134/

You may not use much of that German you took in high school, or perhaps not even that U.S. History. But lawmakers are pushing a class Fort Myers Republican Representative Heather Fitzenhagen says most people will use.

“This bill, essentially is readiness for life. That’s what this bill is all about. It’s to make sure that once we have expended all of our efforts to make sure that our kids have been ready for school, gone through school, that they have the tools they need for readiness for life,” Fitzenhagen says.

Fitzenhagen is behind a bill that would require students to take a personal finance class in order to graduate from high school. Mark Anderson is from the Florida Council on Economic Education. He says teaching students how to understand their finances is a pivotal part of preparing them to start jobs.

“Students who come from states which require a course on financial literacy are more likely to save, are more likely to invest and less likely to incur risky financial debt than students who comes from that’s that do not require a financial literacy course,” Anderson says.

St. Petersburg Democratic Representative Wengay Newton, says kids often follow the example set by their parents. And he says he knows from experience that example is not always the best practice.

“Myself when I started working at 16—got my little work permit—my mom had a Winn-Dixie check cashing card so I went and got a Winn-Dixie Check cashing card. You do what you’re taught and that’s all I knew,” Newton says.

Joe Calhoun is the director of the Florida State University Gus Stavros Center for the advancement of free enterprise and economic education. He says among U.S. adults the level of financial illiteracy is, in his words, “astounding.”  And he says that creates a vicious cycle. He gives the example of the many adults who are not adequately prepared for retirement.

“A lot of that is not necessarily their fault. They were not taught at a young age. Their parents were not equipped to pass along that information," Calhoun says.

And lawmakers say that lack of knowledge is also impacting college students. Members on another House panel discussed a measure to ensure college students know what they’re getting into when they take out student loans. Dayton Beach Republican Representative Tom Leek is pushing a bill that would require colleges and universities to give students a better idea of what it will take to pay off the student loans they’re taking out.

“My vision is that there would be one-on-one counseling with the student at the same time that you provide the counseling on how to get the money to pay tuition,” Leek says.

The bill requires colleges and universities to provide information about how much interest the student is likely to pay and what a student’s monthly payments are likely to be.

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