While some parents do a great job of teaching their children how to handle money, many people become adults without ever learning the importance of saving money for emergencies and future expenses. Personal finance education has been available for decades from a variety of sources, but renewed interest in the topic may be the silver lining in the cloud of the global financial crisis and housing market meltdown.
Whether you are a parent or a teacher looking for financial education for young people or an adult hoping to get a better grasp on your assets, a variety of resources are available. The National Financial Educators Council has developed a financial literacy curriculum that can be used by schools, employers, nonprofit organizations and individuals. Courses can be found on the organization's website and are separated into sections for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, middle school, high school, college and for adults.
Community and business groups around the nation also provide financial literacy training, typically at little or no cost. For example, the Financial Women's Association in New York City has a Financial Literacy Committee that provides a seven-week course to teach financial skills to economically challenged women who are entering the workforce through training programs. The classes are taught at Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), an organization that trains women for jobs as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other skilled positions, and at The Grace Institute, an organization that trains women in business skills.
The New York City Public Library offers a Financial Literacy Now program that offers one-on-one consultations with a certified financial planner.
Financial literacy classes are required in 14 states for high school students, while five states require students to be tested in the subject. In some cases, personal finance is incorporated with math or economics classes. According to U.S. News & World Report, the Jump$tart Coalition, which supports personal finance literacy throughout the United States, recommends that schools provide more than a single semester of personal finance training. Many schools offer things like in-school banks, stock market games and financial simulations starting in elementary school to promote an understanding of financial issues.
In addition to the curriculum used by individual schools, many banks and credit unions partner with schools to open accounts and to teach students about personal finance and the importance of saving.
While the military trains men and women for defense and combat activity, most branches of the military also try to provide members with some personal finance training. For example, the Navy provides personal finance classes to sailors stationed at bases to prepare them for the financial decisions they need to make. Members of the military, particularly those who are young and inexperienced, are often victimized by people who try to take advantage of their vulnerability with financial scams.
In addition to classes, the booklet "Financial Field Manual: The Personal Finance Guide For Military Families," is in its second edition. Produced by a partnership between the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), the Investor Protection Institute (IPI), the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and "Kiplinger's Personal Finance" the book focuses on key issues that are of importance to military families, such as investing, homebuyer resources and special benefits available to military families. The booklets are distributed for free at military bases around the globe, and are used as part of education programs for military families in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
Over 20 federal government agencies have websites with personal finance information for consumers on topics ranging from home financing to credit card debt to student loans to avoiding scams, retirement planning and more. Information from all 20 of these sites is accessible from MyMoney.gov, a searchable website that functions as the primary source for consumers looking for advice on personal finance topics. The site can be read in English or in Spanish, and includes a variety of tools and calculators to assist with budgeting and financial decisions.
Most people think of FICO as the credit score generated by the three major credit reporting bureaus, but at MYFICO.com, consumers can find a plethora of information related to debt management and improving their credit scores.
The Bottom Line
With the wide availability of personal finance training, consumers have very few excuses for not learning to manage their money.