How to empower future generations with the knowledge and skills to overcome the U.S. financial literacy crisis
Posted: August 30, 2023 | Word Count: 778
By Intuit vice president of education and corporate responsibility, Dave Zasada, and Super Bowl Champion Ndamukong and wife Katya Suh, Suh Family Foundation co-founders
The World Economic Forum has recognized financial literacy as a fundamental skill and essential form of literacy for all students. It holds significant influence over various aspects such as financial resilience, responsible retail investments and financial empowerment. However, shockingly, financial literacy remains scarce. A staggering two-thirds of Americans are unable to pass a basic financial literacy test. Additionally, three-quarters of teenagers lack confidence in their understanding of personal finance, with over six in 10 lacking confidence in applying the financial knowledge they possess. This disparity becomes even more concerning when considering underrepresented youth from historically disadvantaged communities. In fact, data from the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) Financial Literacy Results published by the National Center For Education Statistics reveals that White and Asian 15-year-olds exhibit significantly higher financial literacy rates compared to their Black and Latino counterparts of the same age.
The financial literacy gap threatens to put millions of young people on the road to high debt, low credit scores and the toxic stress that comes with money trouble. To navigate today’s world, young people need a fundamental understanding of budgeting, credit, taxes and investing. This knowledge and the skills to apply it will empower future adults to make productive decisions about money and protect themselves against financial predation and fraud. To help provide and encourage this knowledge, Intuit partnered with the Suh Family Foundation to empower youth and communities for long-term success.
Equal access to high school financial literacy to empower millions
Schools teach students many of the skills they need to build successful lives, yet only a quarter of high schoolers have access through their school to a financial literacy course. In fact, financial literacy education is only guaranteed to 5% of students in schools where more than 75% are either Black or Latino or eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. Just 22 states require financial literacy education in high school. We believe that equal access to these courses in all states would empower millions more students to succeed in life and overcome generational wealth gaps and racial and socioeconomic inequalities, especially in low-income and disadvantaged communities with tighter resources. This lack of access perpetuates generational wealth gaps.
Engagement is essential
Research shows that financial literacy education works, but more critically, it needs hands-on instruction that engages students with real-life experiences.
For example, consider the national financial literacy education partnership our organizations have launched. Students learn to manage finances in custom scenarios using real-world tools, including TurboTax and QuickBooks — seeing firsthand how to finance a car, make a family budget, fill out tax forms, and navigate other essential aspects of adult finances. To maximize engagement, subjects are tailored to students’ needs and interests.
Partnerships like this can provide high school teachers with training and curriculum and bring engaging workshops, resources and ongoing support to high schoolers. We are proud to have brought resources to some of the country's biggest, most underserved school districts .
Intuit is dedicated to helping Generation Z and all the coming generations thrive. After a successful joint program in Portland, Oregon, we expanded to the Los Angeles Unified School District, Inglewood Unified School District and Compton Unified School District, East Side Union School District and Dallas Independent School District. To roll out and scale the programming, we work with nonprofit partners already active in local school districts. The big overarching goal is to prepare at least 5 million individuals for jobs and life after graduation by 2025.
There's also an opportunity to encourage students to bring what they’ve learned home and talk about personal finance. Intuit’s recently conducted Prosperity Study Index found that people are less comfortable discussing financial topics than anything else — including politics and mental health. After navigating financial literacy simulations at school, high schoolers can hold intelligent conversations with their parents and community about topics related to money, possibly for the first time. By providing financial literacy toolkits, schools can help equip families to hold constructive, ongoing dialogue around financial topics.
These regular discussions can help create a culture of financial literacy, both in individual families and in society at large. The more students, families and communities have the knowledge, skills and tools to use money wisely, the closer our country will be to putting the American Dream within reach of everyone.
We have the power to build a more prosperous future by providing high school financial literacy courses and ensuring that students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to build successful, financially healthy lives.