One of the most anticipated moments in a young adult’s life is getting his or her driver’s license. Most teenagers equate having a license with becoming an adult, making it a rite of passage. So if taking drivers’ education classes and tests to get one’s license already seem like a hassle, what if there were also questions on the test to assess financial life skills? Would young adults be able to pass? In his op-ed article “How the DMV Could Make Teens Learn About Money,” Adam Levin discusses how learning basic financial life skills is equally as important as learning how to drive. He proposes that if you “don’t understand the difference between a credit card and a debit card? Can’t name the five top factors that determine your credit score (which governs whether you can even get a loan)? Call me the Soup Nazi of the DMV: No license for you! Next!” Levin believes that a credit card and a car loan can look harmless but can turn into a financial danger for some teens. However, he thinks that students with financial literacy are more likely to put more money into savings and pay their credit card balances, and are less likely to max out their credit card.
Even though he does not say teens should be taught this in driver’s education classes, Levin does say that high schools should be involved in teaching these skills. New York Times reporter Tara Siegel Bernard also wrote an article concerning this topic. In her 2010 article “Working Financial Literacy in With the Three R’s,” Bernard agrees that these lessons should be taught in school. However, it’s not a new concept. Currently, there are only 13 states that require students to take a personal finance course before they can graduate from high school. And although there are 34 states that make personal finance a part of their curricula, Bernard states she does not believe that the course will always be taught. She writes: “It’s no secret that state budgets are tight, and courses not seen as core are more likely to be cut than added.”
Yet another place where students should be learning about personal finance is from their parents. In a recent Huffington Post Canada article, “Generation Y and Personal Finance: Understanding the World of Money More Important Than Ever,” Stephanie Chan quotes Investor Education Fund President Tom Hamza as saying, “I’d like to be able to say (it’s) 100 percent of a parent’s [responsibility to teach their children], but without parents modeling this behavior, we have to rely on schools more often than not.” Chan agrees with Hamza and writes that relatives may not have all the answers to teach the youth everything they need to know.
Based on these articles, there is a definite need for the youth to learn financial skills. Whether it’s implemented through DMV testing, enforced throughout high schools, or even parents finding and sharing more information, teenagers need to learn how to protect themselves not only from car accidents but from financial crises as well.
- Susan B. Garland, “Personal Business; Reading, Writing and Now Checkbook Balancing,” The New York Times, June 22, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/22/business/personal-business-reading-writing-and-now-checkbook-balancing.html.