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I'm a father of three, and I've got a lot of work to do. According to the latest survey of the National Council on Economic Education ...
- Only 17 states require students to take an economics course.
- And only seven states require coursework in personal finance.
Anyone else think this is a national embarrassment? No? See whether these statistics, from the Young Americans Center for Financial Education, don't change your mind:
- Fully 40% of Americans say they live beyond their means.
- Between 25 million and 56 million adults are unbanked (i.e., not using mainstream, insured financial institutions.)
- The average household with debt carries approximately $10,000 to $12,000 in total revolving debt and has nine credit cards.
- Among college-age adults, 50.8% agree with this statement: "I have experienced repeated, unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back, or stop excessive money use."
- In 2005, savings rates dipped to negative 0.5%, something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression in 1932 and 1933. A negative savings rate means that Americans spent all of their disposable income and dipped into past savings or increased their borrowing.
- Americans shelled out more than $24 billion in credit card fees in 2004, an 18% increase over the previous year.
Clearly, we're graduating teens who know exactly nothing about Mathanese.
Still not convinced? Try this on for size.
And we've been doing it for decades. Trust me. I know from experience. I practically ignored my parents' call for me to save as a pre-teen, spent as though the apocalypse was nigh as a teen, and then, like so many others, rushed into credit card debt as a college student. Stupid, stupid, and spectacularly stupid.
Today, my family is paying the price. We're some $60,000 in debt. It'll take years of my working double shifts to get free. When it comes to finances, ignorance is anything but bliss.
Teach 'em while they're young
Which makes the situation in our nation's public school system all the more dangerous. It leaves parents to fill the financial-education gap. But I think we can. Find a comprehensive list of resources here, for starters. My favorites are:
- Bank Jr.: An interactive site for younger children whose best feature is its "ask the money kid" Q&A. A new budgeting tool also appears to hold promise. Zions Bank is a sponsor.
- Tips for Kids: For kids in grades 5 through 8, this is a free site that teaches both basic (i.e., the history of money) and advanced (i.e., investment management) topics. American Century Investments, a championship mutual fund shop, is a sponsor.
- Money in Motion: For kids in grades 7-12, this site offers downloadable lesson plans on many money topics, including how banking works, what happens when you write a check, and the joys (and dangers) of compound interest. The American Bankers Association -- a business and lobbying group that represents national lending institutions such as Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) , BB&T (NYSE: BBT ) , and Wachovia (NYSE: WB ) -- is a sponsor.
Follow the money
Kids have it tough. But getting them the financial education they need doesn't have to also be tough on parents. Free resources abound, including plenty here at The Motley Fool. Our Teens & Their Money page is a good place to start.
For still more answers to your money questions, take a 30-day free pass to our Motley Fool Green Light personal-finance service right now. There's no obligation to subscribe.
Bank of America and BB&T are Income Investor picks.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers writes weekly about personal-finance and investing basics. Have a Foolish money tip? Tell him. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Find his portfolio here and his latest blog commentary here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy studied Mathanese in college.