Young people in New York have a great knowledge of many subjects, but they have much to learn about personal finance.
Many states have already incorporated financial education into the school curriculum, with some starting lessons as early as kindergarten. Twenty states, including Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia, require that students take a personal finance class to graduate from high school. New York should get with the program.
I issued an executive order on financial literacy in 2019, directing my office to identify ways to enhance New York residents’ personal finance knowledge and understanding of issues such as mortgages, student loans and credit card debt. But we should also be focusing on financial literacy for the next generation, to ensure that young people have the skills to effectively manage their finances and avoid falling into the trap of spiraling debt.
According to a National Endowment for Financial Education 2022 report, 80 percent of those surveyed stated they wished they had been required to take a personal finance class in school. Also, a study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a nonprofit corporation regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, found that respondents with higher financial literacy were more likely to make financial ends meet than people with lower financial know-how.
During last year’s legislative session in Albany, eight bills were introduced to include financial education in schools starting as early as pre-K. One bill called for the creation of a financial literacy fund, which would provide funding for grants or programs to establish financial literacy programs, specifically targeting at-risk populations. These bills merit further discussion.
Thomas DiNapoli is the New York state comptroller. A version of this column originally appeared in amNewYork.