Personal Finance Before Graduation? Most Americans Say, “Yes!”

Most adults believe that students back in the classroom this fall should be required to take financial education courses, according to a poll from the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®).

The poll finds that 88% of U.S. adults say their state should require a semester- or year-long financial education course for graduation.

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“Some states already require students to take a financial education course, and some states are in the process of instituting this curriculum. Americans overwhelmingly agree that learning money skills at an early age is important. In fact, 80% of American adults wish they had been required to take a semester- or year-long financial education class in high school,” says Billy Hensley, Ph.D., president, and CEO of NEFE. “This polling reinforces the national support for personal finance to be a part of learning in all schools.”

Financial education has been a hot topic this year, with more than half the state legislatures plus D.C. having introduced financial education-related bills. Nationwide, 15 states now either require a course or are implementing one.

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NEFE and AmeriSpeak surveyed U.S. adults on high school financial education graduation requirements, what they wish they had access to when they were students, and what they believe is important for existing students. High-level results from this polling include:

  • 88% said their state should require a semester- or year-long financial education course for graduation.
  • 80% said they wish they were required to take a semester- or year-long financial education course during high school.
  • 75% said that spending and budgeting is the most important financial education topic to teach for personal finance education, followed by managing credit (55%), saving (49%), and earning income (47%).

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A demographic breakdown of the data includes these highlights:

  • Older cohorts (ages 45-59 and ages 60+) were significantly more likely than the youngest aged cohort (ages 18-29) to say their state should mandate financial education for high school graduation (18-29 y/o: 79%; 45-59 y/o: 93%; 60+ y/o: 92%).
  • Adults with a postsecondary degree were significantly more likely to say their state should mandate financial education than adults with no high school diploma (91% vs. 71%).
  • Men and women were similarly likely to indicate that their state should mandate financial education and wished they were required to complete a semester- or year-long course focused on personal finance education during high school.
  • Adults with household income under $30,000 (73%) were less likely than the highest earning income groups—those earning $60,000 to $100,000 and those earning $100,000 or more (84% to 85%)—to say they wished they were required to complete a semester- or year-long course focused on personal finance education during high school.
  • Non-Hispanic whites (84%) were more likely than non-Hispanic Blacks (73%) and Hispanic (73%) adults to say they wished they were required to complete a semester- or year-long course focused on personal finance education during high school.

“Now that school’s back in session, educators must be attentive that youth are being taught the important life skill of money management. There is tremendous demand, and research continues to validate that financial education builds a solid foundation for how students will manage their money as adults,” adds Hensley. “Legislation plays a role in school-based education, but also in working toward creating, and regulating, a financial system that provides a fair playing field for all.”

See the full summary report for a detailed overview of the poll results, demographic differences, and full survey methodology.

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Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.