Report Flunks New England States for Personal Finance Education

A new report card from the Center for Financial Literacy at Vermont's Champlain College encourages high schools to stress the importance of personal finance knowledge to their students.

"The call to action is 'do something,'" said John Pelletier of the Center for Financial Literacy.

Pelletier gave F grades to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island high schools, saying they have no state-mandated exposure to finance topics as graduation requirements.

Maine and New Hampshire did better in the study, scoring Bs for their required classes with personal finance components.

Vermont got a D.

Pelletier said not enough young people understand how a credit score is calculated, why it's important to budget and start saving early, or how compound interest works.

He argues that all of society would benefit if tomorrow's consumers would just learn about those and other related topics.

"Your economy is stronger if we allow people to keep more of what they earn, and either save it or spend, than give it to a financial institution as interest," Pelletier told necn.

He called Utah the best of the best states, for not just requiring personal finance education, but testing students' proficiency and ensuring teachers are well-trained.

Champlain seniors Austin Truax and Cameron Dumont said they have peers who are very worried about their financial futures.

"They have no idea how credit cards work, they don't know how to go about getting a credit card," Truax said of other people his age. "They don't know what a credit score is or anything like that."

"A bunch of my friends who have loans – one of their biggest concerns is how they're going to pay it off and how they're going to find a place to live," Dumont added. "Their biggest goal is finding the best-paying job as opposed to a job that's going to make them happy."

Pelletier said he hopes the report card sparks conversations in state legislatures and elsewhere.

"I could put, I think, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the same room, and they would agree that personal finance education is important for our youth, and yet we're not doing it in our classrooms," Pelletier said.

The Center for Financial Literacy noted that pockets of excellence do exist in states that got bad grades. However, Pelletier said towns that focus on finances do so because of dedicated principals, teachers, and community groups—not because of statewide policies.

Click here to read the full report, called "Is Your State Making the Grade?"

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