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Our Kids’ Financial Futures Are At Stake.

The sky is falling. We hear about it every day. The stock market is plunging, the housing bubble has exploded, and the list of doom and gloom goes on and on. How did we get here? We consider ourselves a bright nation. Why then, didn’t we see this coming? Did we get too greedy? Did we lose our common sense? Perhaps it was a little of both. What is important is what we have learned from our mistakes and the knowledge we pass down to our children to help them avoid a similar fate.

Unfortunately our children may end up sinking in our same boat. Even if they go to college, the personal finance education they will receive will be slim to none. While in college, our children are finding themselves more in debt than any past generations. Think about some of the financial statistics for our youth:

  • 76% of undergraduate students have credit cards, while carrying a balance of over $2000, according to Nellie Mae. 28% percent of students roll over their debt each month.
  • College graduates are finding that they are over $20,000 in debt, according to Creditcards.com.
  • Charles Schwab reported in a 2007 survey that 45% of teens have credit cards but only 26% know how to understand how their fees and interest payments.

Whether we are looking at Generation Y, Echo Boomers, Millenials or any of the other names given to those born after 1982, it is important to understand that they have been raised to expect immediate gratification. Sixty Minutes did a recent feature discussing how companies are even bending over backwards to meet the demands of this high-expectation generation.

If everybody is bending over backward to meet their needs, what is going to happen when they have to be financially responsible for themselves? Why aren’t we bending over backwards to help them learn to be financially independent? We have seen that past generations (their parents) have been poorly educated and are apparently in no position to teach them. If it is not to be taught by parents who are uneducated themselves, where will they get this knowledge?

Currently many colleges and universities are rethinking their position in including personal finance education. Unfortunately these classes are mostly electives or only required by business majors. It costs upward of $6000/year average to pay for a child’s college tuition. What are they getting out of that to prepare them for their adult life?

What can be done?

  • Colleges can create more course offerings to include personal finance education. Within the courses, texts need to be appropriate for all majors. Many colleges offer texts for these courses that are math-intensive, which can turn off the student who is not a math genius.
  • As parents we can help our children by sharing our mistakes and explaining what we ourselves have learned in the process.
  • K-12 Guidelines can be updated to include more specifics as to amount of “time” devoted to the financial literacy information our schools are supposed to be teaching.
  • Personal finance books for younger students could be created in a story-telling format that would allow for them to relate the importance of what they are learning to their own lives.

If future generations are not taught to become financially responsible, who is going to bail them out? Are we going to have to just keep relying on the government to come to the rescue? It certainly isn’t going to be their parents, as they have lost their retirement nest eggs. In fact, their parents may be looking at this generation to take care of them.

Guest post by Diane Hamilton, who has a BS, MA and Ph.D. in Business Management. Her experience includes working in several industries including pharmaceuticals, banking and real estate. She has trained corporations in areas such as time management, emotional intelligence and Myers Briggs. She currently works as an online professor, working for 5 different universities. She teaches mostly business-related courses to bachelor, master and doctoral level students as well as mentors doctoral learners. She is in the process of writing a personal finance book for the young adult. Diane can be reached through www.drdianehamilton.com

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Comments (3)

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  1. Dana says:

    It is not a bad idea for the education system to step in if parenting fails to impress upon children the importance of money management.

  2. Bill says:

    Over 7% of private student loans are in default. No wonder. Kids have no job, little credit and, of course, no money. As reported in the NYT yesterday, the Obama administration is working toward direct lending by the federal govt, which should make more (and cheaper) money available to students.

    With some students even using credit cards for tuition and books, fundamental changes in the student loan system are needed.

  3. Rita Bradley says:

    I’ve got one child in Jr College and one who will be of college age in 2 years. I’ve discouraged my kids from wracking up college loan debt as I’m not sure salaries in the future are going to be able to absorb the high monthly payments. Better to take classes one or two at a time as affordable while living at home, IMO.

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