I’m a native Kansan. I’m a proud Jayhawks fan. My roots are deep there, and much of my family still lives there. I’m going back home next month to celebrate my grandson becoming an Eagle Scout (the same one who got lost on his way to class the first day of college last fall).
I say all this because I want to brag about something innovative that my home state has done for its students — and to use the example as a guide for what we all need to do to encourage the same action for financial education.
Recently, spurred to action by a teenager who suffered cardiac arrest during a spelling bee, the Kansas Legislature passed a law requiring every high school student in the state to complete a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course to graduate from high school.
The American Heart Association reports that 350,000 people across the United States suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year. Only 46 percent of those victims receive CPR. Now, every high school graduate in Kansas will know how to perform CPR. That will unquestionably save lives over time.
Emma Baker was the 13-year-old student who collapsed during a spelling bee. Her life was saved because a school administrator knew CPR and a person in the audience recognized her medical distress.
That event drove a passion for her and her family to press for legislation to ensure that others in the future have someone there to perform CPR in the rare event that it’s needed.
We need to follow that example for financial education for our students across the country.
Every single student in our schools will:
- Spend cash.
- Take out installment loans for major purchases.
- Swipe credit cards, or just point their phones at a reader to make a charge.
- Need to purchase insurance.
- Save for emergencies.
- And, we hope, invest for their retirement.
Add to that the fact that there was more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt in 2017 and more than $1 trillion in credit card debt in the United States, and it should be abundantly clear that understanding fundamental personal finance topics including credit, savings, and other basic financial concepts is a critical life skill every student needs.
Everywhere I go, everyone I talk to wants to know why we don’t include financial education in our schools’ curricula. The answer is simple. We don’t make it clear to our school boards, administrators, and legislators that it’s a priority for us as citizens and parents.
We need to follow Ms. Baker’s example. If we don’t share our passion and make our voices heard, we can’t bring change to our schools for our children. If our school boards, administrators, and legislators don’t know that financial education is a priority for their constituents, they can’t give it the attention it needs.
Financial Literacy Month
April is Financial Literacy Month. That would be a great time to speak with your school board members and legislators about the importance of requiring personal finance education in our classrooms.
Another way to get involved is through the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. Experian was one of the founders of the organization more than 20 years ago. Today, Jump$tart has about 150 partners from the private sector, public sector, and academia. It’s extraordinarily rare to find an organization where companies like Experian work together with government agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, colleges and universities, and nonprofit foundations. In this case, it’s because we all believe in the importance of personal finance education in the classroom.
Jump$tart isn’t an advocacy organization. It works to provide training, resources, and guidelines for effective classroom instruction. Jump$tart established national standards for financial education in grades K-12 and has built a clearinghouse of resources for teachers to use in their classes.
There are Jump$tart coalitions in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. Visit the website to learn more about what Jump$tart does and how you can volunteer to support financial education initiatives in your state.
(Editor’s note: Wise Bread is also a proud supporter of Jump$tart. Check out the recent TweetChat we co-hosted with Jump$start on the topic of creating a financially literate future with our kids.)
Credit tips for Financial Literacy Month
Throughout April, there will be financial education initiatives and events to encourage people of all ages to increase their financial knowledge. A piece of that knowledge is about credit and how to use it wisely. Here are a few credit tips in advance of Financial Literacy Month.
- Get your credit report at least once a year. It’s free from each of the national credit reporting companies at www.annualcreditreport.com. The first step to improving your credit is knowing what’s in your credit report.
- Check your credit score when you get your report. You can purchase a score for a nominal fee, and you’ll get the risk factors that go with the score. Use those factors to address the issues in your credit report to improve your credit score.
- The two most important factors for every credit score are your payment history and your credit utilization ratio. Pay your bills on time and keep your credit card balances low, and your scores will improve over time.
- Check your credit report and score several months before applying for a major loan or mortgage. Doing so will ensure you have time to address any issues with your credit history and take steps to improve your score if necessary.
- Join Experian’s #CreditChat on Twitter and Periscope to learn more about personal finance and credit. We want you to be part of the conversation not only during financial literacy month, but all year long.
Everywhere I go, parents and professionals tell me how important requiring financial education in our schools is and how concerned they are that it isn’t.
I’m the wrong person to tell.
Make your voice heard in your state. We want all our students across the country to graduate with fundamental personal financial skills.
Have a talk with your legislators, school boards, and administrators. Only when they understand how important it is to all of us will financial education become a priority. Financial Literacy Month would be a good time to start that conversation.