Financial Literacy in Teens

Why is financial education so overlooked in schools?

Let’s not beat around the bush: we are no strangers to the tumult of financial problems. We all know what causes that incessant wrinkled brow in our parents when it comes to tax season; we have seen how even the mildest suggestion of handling one’s finances can send even the most genial adult into a complete downward spiral. The stigma of finances as an ‘adult issue’ becomes problematic when teenagers allow themselves to overlook the idea of facing finances entirely. 

The reality of the matter is, the cost of living has skyrocketed — and with it, so has the inability for many people to afford life experiences no one should have to be deprived of because of a lack of money. Consider the most ominous obstacle on a teen’s mind — college. A student’s ability to get into a great college is in their power; however, what if they are prevented from attending that school for fear of how much student debt they might take on? This is the idea of being enslaved to the American financial system; it reflects the idea that once you’re deep in it, there is hardly any means for escape.

The realities of the stock market, new technological advances and an insurmountable lack of understanding towards Bitcoin, Dogecoin, cryptocurrencies and the idea of “get rich quick,” hand teenagers a high stake of pressure equivalent to what we saw initially sparked during the competition of the California Gold Rush. 

Even then, there was the reality of the matter that only a fraction of those who went searching for gold would even come close. Obviously, we don’t still possess that level of odds when it comes to the average financially knowledgeable person. However, there is an often overlooked question of why the education of students regarding financial literacy is so underdeveloped. Truthfully, students require a fundamental knowledge of what to expect once they enter the ‘real world’ of student loans, debt, rent, bills, etc. But instead of implementing this early on, teenagers are instead being shoved out, a deer in headlights, in front of the daunting reality of their financial education — or more accurately, the lack thereof.

Oak Park High School actually has a finance course, taught by Michael Winkler. Why this class is not more often promoted, I could not say — our student population has access to this information, yet we are hardly even encouraged to enroll in the class. It is offered only as a zero period course. Something so important should certainly be allowed as a period during the actual school day, and yet as a zero it only allows for a handful of students to take it every year. 

Providing an education on similar topics to Oak Park students are the AP Macroeconomics and CP Economics courses. These classes are much more often taken, and are very important; however, the finance class specifically is often overlooked. This class and aspect of student education should not only be promoted to OPHS students, but mandated among them. 

You have no doubt spoken with your peers regarding how much you will actually need or use certain things you learn in your classes in your daily life. Considering that we have access to a course like this — one that we will use for the rest of our lives — and it goes so drastically unnoticed at our school, reflects the habitual decision to ‘push off’ these areas of knowledge. Regarding the stigmatization of these things and how to progress away from them, one of the most crucial ideologies to keep in mind is that our adult lives are closer than they may seem. 

Students should be taking advantage of this resource as it is available to them, and at least keeping in mind the idea that ‘adult problems’ will be applicable to them in a much more direct set of circumstances; in less than four years for everyone on campus, and less than one year for most seniors, suddenly dealing with finances will just be a part of the status quo in terms of what is expected from all of us. 

 Despite the recognition of how much of our lives will be dictated by our financial statuses, there is a very limited number of students who can confidently say that they are financially literate. Financial literacy is overlooked, and yet it is arguably the most influential factor regarding our futures. Teenagers need to be drawn away from a fundamental fear of money in their futures, and instead take the reins regarding their financial education.