Teens Lack Financial Knowhow

Sarada Symonds, Editor-in-Chief

Campolindo has been ranked as one of the top schools in California. It has been particularly lauded for its Advanced Placement programs, in which 72% of the student body participate, according to US News. However, this catalogue of  rigorous course options, which supposedly prepares students for college, leaves them woefully underprepared for life.

Few courses on our campus give students practical knowledge they will use in the “real world,” especially when it comes to personal finance.

Economics teacher Carol Brownlee characterizes the state of personal finance education at Campolindo as “abysmal.” While economics is offered as a semester course, it does not cover everything students need to know, and it may coincide with a senior’s 2nd semester, when those soon-to-be graduates are frequently incapable of focusing on any further educational enrichment.

“We only teach 1 semester of a subject that is way more important than the 1 semester we give it,” Brownly said of the traditional Economics curriculum.

Many have described Moraga as a “bubble,” but what happens when when we leave that bubble? In order to prepare for the real world, students, especially seniors, should be offered or required to take courses on personal finance in order to learn about balancing checkbooks, saving, investments, and paying off debt.  Considering the high cost of college, where most of these students are headed, understanding debt management is crucial.

While some are mislead by our community’s pressure to take academically sexy advanced courses, I believe these basic, but too often ignored, financial skills are invaluable to students. Brownlee agrees. “It’s unfortunate that it’s shirked from the curriculum. It deserves a much longer course, and it results in people not having enough financial literacy when they graduate from here,” she said.

According to the magazine Business World, 79% of millennials felt personal finance should be taught in high schools, and 73% felt it should be taught in colleges. As of 2011, only 14 states required a personal finance course to be offered in high school, according to surveyofthestates.org. However, California is 1 of 4 states that do not have any sort of personal finance education standards.

Senior Elysa also worries that students are not being prepared for the financial issues they will face in adulthood. “I think it’s hard for teenagers to have an actual concept of money. I think it’s hard for us to grasp it,” she said.

When the millennial generation entered the job market, the effect of the Great Recession was still apparent in the economy, according to the Wells Fargo Retirement Survey. Furthermore, with 64% of millennials financing their education through student loans (compared with 29% of “baby boomers”), debt has become one of the chief concerns of our generation.

54% of millennials have said that, other than day-to-day expenses, debt is their “biggest financial concern currently.” Our community, affluent as it may be, suffers from a serious lack of financial literacy. “I have cousins in their 20s who are still struggling with money because they don’t know how to deal with it,” Campo said.

With such a significant portion of our school’s graduates attending college, and many paying for that education with loans, it is critical that personal finance curriculum be offered.

Money management is an important skill. As we’ve recently seen in The Great Recession, personal decisions about saving and debt can effect the national economy.

Students need to know about finances as they enter the world, so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to loans, debt, and investing. By educating ourselves, we will more fully understand the weight of student debt and how to pay it off, as well as appreciate the importance of saving for the future. According to a study in USA Today, students who took a class on personal finance were found to be more averse to debt, more likely to pay credit card bills on time, and less likely to go over their credit limit.

Many students, myself included, rely on their parents to learn about money management. And yet, many working parents simply do not have time to teach their kids everything they need to know. While more resources are becoming available to students interested in personal finance, such as courses offered on federally funded web sites and videos at Khan Academy, many do not have the time outside of school to dedicate to the subject. 

Our school should offer this course.

As the next generation, it’s necessary that we remain informed and knowledgeable about finances, so that we may create a successful financial foundation upon which to build our lives.