Thursday, April 07, 2011

Should budgeting be taught in high school vs. figuring it out in the real world?

I came across this press release put out by a credit counseling business outlining new FDIC guidelines in support of financial literacy and how their services can help those who are in need of some financial literacy resources.  The press release states, in part:
Beginning July 1, 2011, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) will initiate guidelines that will strongly urge financial institutions to offer either free to low-cost financial education or individualized financial counseling to consumers who are enrolled in automated overdraft payment programs.
This got me to wondering, just what kind of financial literacy education do most people get in school?  Back when I was in school, I elected to take a business course and an accounting course as math electives.  I learned how to figure out profit and loss.  I learned how to log expenses and deposits.  I (arguably) learned how to balance a checkbook!  Bear in mind, this was well before Quicken or MS Money.  These were valuable skills that I learned and they served me well as I went out into the big, bad world on my own.

If I were a bank and had a repeat overdraft offender, I'd offer them a deal.  If they truly need some financial counseling, then yes, offer a remedial type of class and --- this is the kicker --- waive those overdraft charges as an enticement to have the slate wiped clean.  Honestly, banks make a ton of money on overdraft fees... a dirty little secret that lines their pockets.  The uber rich don't bounce checks and overdraw their accounts.  It's people who count every penny, who try hard to juggle their finances, only to have an apple fall one day short of payday.

If Driver's Education is a requirement to graduate, perhaps passing a basic financial literacy class should also be a requirement.   I learned how to prepare a basic 1040-EZ in 12th grade, and I even prepared my own tax return that year, something that I have to thank my 12th grade Problems of Democracy teacher, Mr. Lukac, for teaching me how to do.  It was something I needed to learn and I'm so glad that he included it in his curriculum.
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