Yes, college/career readiness is important, but do they have basic money management skills?

My Summit Experience

I recently attended an employer summit that focused on how school districts, school counselors, and employers can collaborate in preparing students for life after high school. Some important highlights of that meeting was providing hands-on, accessible, relevant, and timely education and practical experiences for students. Experiences that are innovative and collaborative and prepare them for adult life. Access to technology and leadership opportunities focus on hard skills that young people need to be resourceful and successful.

The summit also brought attention to the non-university track, career paths. In other words, there were discussions on apprenticeship and career school opportunities for students who do not consider a four-year university as the next step for them. Another layer I would have liked to add to those conversations is the money management expectations of young adults. Lack of concrete, consistent approaches to teaching personal finance in high schools across the country leave many youth and young people ill-prepared for the financial decisions they need to make when they go off on their post-secondary journeys.

Including Personal Finance Topics in Career & Education Discussions for Young People

Education and training options discussions should include important aspects of money management such as borrowing, using credit, finding affordable housing, exploring employer benefits, paying taxes, changing income through education and training, and handling other financial responsibilities. Exposing youth to these post-secondary expenditures allow them to know their choices and explore options.

There has been some needed focus on student loan borrowing and debt associated with borrow to pay for a college education. Minsky (2018) explained that student loan debt is the second-largest type of consumer debt with about one in nine Americans carrying student loan debt. Consequently, there has been less focus on paying for vocation/trade/apprentices programs. Even though many students are planning to continue their education after high school, others may be uncertain about what comes next for them. Whether your teen has decided on a career path or they are weighing their options, exploring opportunities for them to learn more about managing their finances.

Finding Ways to Help Your Youth

There has been individual, organizational, and national efforts to provide quality personal finance information to students. As the struggle continues, there are different steps parents and loved ones can take to help students build their money skills and knowledge:

  • University of Illinois Extension offers youth development programs that help students gain experiences and knowledge in many life skills. The consumer economics programs offer money management opportunities for youth and young people to engage in money management classes. For example, youth financial book clubs, workshops, and presentations. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides a youth financial education curriculum that outlines important techniques for teaching finances.
  • In my extension unit, we also have an annual conference for high school students, and it includes breakout sessions on personal finance topics that are relevant to students as they prepare for their post-secondary adventures. Check with your local extension office for available programs and workshops for your students. Check out some of my previous posts on youth and money
  • Talk with your child's school and ask them about the type of personal finance classes offered or topics covered.
  • The High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP), which is a part of the efforts of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) has resources for parents, students, and instructors. The lessons for parents with teens and young adults, including money management, borrowing, financial services, and others.

As we move towards the end of graduation season, which is a time of year that many students and their families celebrate the hard work and sacrifice it took to get to finish high school. Think about your student's current personal finance knowledge and find resources that can help them maintain healthy financial lives as adults.

Resources: Minsky, A. S. (2018). Managing student loans in a changing landscape. Journal of Financial Planning, 22-26.