AlamyBy Mandi Woodruff
April is Financial Literacy month, which is the personal finance industry’s cue to ramp up its message that high school — and the home — is ground zero for the movement. After all, if we can teach teens to handle money responsibly, we can ensure that the next generation of adults won’t make a mess of things. Right?
Unfortunately, teens don’t have quite as much faith in their own financial futures as most people, according to a new survey by Junior Achievement USA/Allstate Foundation.
Nearly 60 percent of teens said they don’t expect to be ready to financially support themselves by age 24 — a far cry from the same survey two years ago, when 75 percent of teens felt the same. Only 25 percent of teens said they’d be prepared by age 27.
That’s a more than double the number in the same survey two years ago, when just 12 percent of teens felt the same.
To be fair, they have reasons to be wary of flying the coop. The job market, though slowly improving, isn’t exactly stellar, the cost of college tuition is perpetually rising, and student loans rates have tripled in the last decade. “Parents continue to be the No.1 influence on teens when it comes to money, so helping their teens set financial goals and take steps to meet them should pay off financially for both teens and their parents,” said Don Civgin, president and chief executive officer of Allstate Financial.
Therein lies the central issue of financial literacy: Whose job is it to teach kids how to manage money — their teachers or their parents?
Mom and Dad may know which snacks to pack, how to fix a flat and when to lecture about college and safe sex, but it’s not like they have to pass a financial literacy test before bringing children into the world.
In a T. Rowe Price survey, more than half of parents said they only feel ‘fairly’ prepared to discuss finances with their children. Another 18 percent said they aren’t prepared at all.
On the other hand, financial literacy is part of the curriculum in roughly half the country in the U.S. There are free financial literacy services for teens, but convincing them to learn about budgeting in lieu of playing after school sports is likely a tall order.
There’s a solid case for either side of the debate. The reality is that it will likely take both.
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