Like many first-year college students, I was bombarded with offers for free things to open a new account from the sponsored bank. It was overwhelming, I was naïve, and I had never had a credit card before, so I said “yes!”
I wasn’t smart about what I was signing up for. I didn’t know how to manage this new account – monthly payment? With what job? I thought: I’ll just throw away this statement and it will go away... HA! I was lost!
I came to college feeling like an adult, but it was suddenly apparent that I lacked the basic knowledge adults should have about their personal finances. For years, I was ashamed and embarrassed for how I financially started my adult life. Not anymore. Now, I try to share my experience with as many people as I can in hopes of them making different, better, more educated choices than my younger self did.
I now know that I wasn’t alone in feeling unprepared for the “real world” financially. Last year a study revealed only 17 states in our country require high school students to take a class in personal finance in order to graduate. I believe all states should require financial education. To me, financial education is just as important as science, math, English, etc. – all courses required to graduate.
Understanding your finances is crucial, and it’s a missed opportunity that we’re not educating and empowering our future adults on what some would deem a basic life skill.
Perhaps the assumption is that children learn about finances from their parents. That’s a dangerous assumption. We don’t assume that our children learn math or science at home, so why would we assume they learn financial education at home? I, in no way shape or form, believe that the financial education of a child should fall solely on the teachings of an in-classroom educator. I do, however, believe that financial education should be taught in tandem with the other education requirements, both in and out of the home so students are more readily prepared to navigate their financial life.
Through trial-by-fire, I gained an understanding of personal finances in my adult life, and later ended up falling into a career in banking. I have had the great opportunity to be a part of employee resource groups where hosting events throughout the community was required. My colleagues from those groups talked about how they were hosting financial workshops for kids and it struck me – I could do that! I shared the idea with my husband, who works for a school in Minneapolis, and he agreed there was a need for financial education among the scholars at his school.
A few years back, I hosted a class for third-graders. The kids loved it – they were so engaged, and I could just see the light bulbs going off in their heads. I think starting the conversation early is key – and it doesn’t stop there. We shouldn’t expect people to learn about their finances for the first time as a young adult – we should have financial education as part of the curriculum, starting as early as third grade and continuing through high school.
This way, we’re taking a two-prong approach, at home and at school to:
- Ensure good financial habits are passed on, and
- Help break the cycle of bad financial habits, that are often generational.
Last year, I became one of more than 90 certified financial education trainers with Old National. Old National partnered with The National Financial Educators Council (NFEC) to provide materials for our associates to go into the communities prepared to teach classes from Pre-K through adult, and we even have a specific program (Money Safety for Seniors) to help seniors prevent financial exploitation. Topics include, but are not limited to: financial psychology, budgeting, credit, loans and debt. We're available and eager to bring financial education, at no cost, to classrooms and beyond.
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Registered Old National instructors are available to lead financial education classes, at no cost, with schools, nonprofits, businesses and more across the areas we serve.
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