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Opinion: We need mandatory financial literacy classes

Sabrina Snowberger, staff columnist

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It’s almost time for Halloween – the spookiest holiday of the year. To me, the only thing scarier than the thought of witches and ghosts chasing you around on Halloween night is the thought of maintaining financial stability after college graduation.

After college is over and we’re out “adulting” in the real world, we’ll have to start paying back education loans, making major financial decisions about where to live or the kinds of cars we drive and deciding on everyday purchases like eating out or buying drinks at a bar.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have little or no student debt to worry about, most of us haven’t had exposure to financial decisions that post-grad adults have to make all the time. Think about it. Do you know how to buy a car? Or a house? Or pay taxes? What about how to evaluate stocks? Have you ever made a budget? If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, great job. Maybe you have knowledgeable family members that taught you financial literacy or you had to take a class in high school or for your major that taught you the basics.

According to a 2018 article by NBC, poll results showed that three out of every four millennials (defined as adults ages 18-34) have some form of debt. A quarter of millenials have over $30,000 in debt, and 11 percent of millenials have $100,000 or more in debt. Only 22 percent of millenials have no debt at all!

It’s easy to chalk up these numbers to high education costs, but guess what. The same study found that the majority of debt (46 percent) was credit card debt! And college graduates are even more likely to rack up credit card debt than individuals who did not attend college.

In my very own personal finance class this semester, the majority of the class had no idea how much money they actually needed to comfortably retire. They were shocked when they learned it was millions of dollars. Unless something changes in our educational institutions, this cycle will continue. Students in high school and college should be required to take personal finance classes to learn about the different types of credit and how to use them, the entire process of making large purchases such as cars or houses, how to avoid falling victim to predatory lending and how to budget, save and invest.

This information is not common sense, and many people will not formally learn about any of these topics. Not everyone has the privilege of growing up in a financially stable family who will be able to teach them about these topics. And with the rising costs of higher education, students need to be prepared to face their sometimes-crippling debt strategically when they start to pay it back. Of course, general education classes can be annoying and tedious, but if they cover topics that will be applicable to daily life, such as personal finance, they may be more engaging.

You probably wouldn’t show up to a test and expect to do well without ever attending class, reading the material or studying, so why do we expect children to enter the real world and pay off their debt, avoid racking up more and amass a hefty nest egg for retirement without ever preparing them for it?

 

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Opinion: We need mandatory financial literacy classes