These States Are Doing The Most To Promote Financial Literacy
By Dan Kadlec
April 18, 2018
The publishing world has known for eons that readers love a good list. So, we have the world’s wealthiest list from Forbes, the best places to retire list from Money, the most beautiful people list from People, and so on. But some lists do more than sell subscriptions—and a case in point may be the top 10 list of states supporting financial education.
This list from the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy may not be as fun to read about as, say, the abs of Sterling K. Brown or an affordable beach plum in Costa Rica. But it just might be prompting state officials to raise their personal finance game.
The Center released its top 10 list this month, in the spirit of financial literacy month. But its findings were incorporated late last year in its 2017 national report card on state efforts to improve financial literacy in high schools.
Since that report, which graded each state, four states have taken legislative action and two others are expected to do so, says John Pelletier, director of the Center. The two with financial literacy measures pending and expected to pass this session are Louisiana and Massachusetts, Pelletier says. He notes demonstrable success in these states:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that instructs public school districts to adopt academic standards for financial literacy and build financial education into the curriculum in grades K-12. On the report card last year, Wisconsin scored an F; this alone likely will move it to a C in the next report, Pelletier says.
Delaware The Delaware State Board of Education has approved new K-12 financial literacy standards that mandate that students have access to personal finance instruction. On the last report card, Delaware scored an F; this move likely will improve the state’s score to a C, Pelletier says.
Vermont The Vermont State Board of Education approved new K-12 financial literacy standards that significantly strengthen its commitment to financial education and ensure that all students have access to personal finance instruction. Vermont scored a D last year; this move likely will earn the state a C in the next report, Pelletier says.
Kentucky Just this month, Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill requiring that beginning with the class of 2025 high school student will be required to complete one or more financial literacy courses or programs. Kentucky earned a C on last year’s report card; this measure likely will move it up to a B or an A, Pelletier says.
No one likes…
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…being singled out in a negative way. Wisconsin and Delaware were among 10 states that received an F and reside on the Center’s bottom 10 list. Massachusetts, where new measures are expected, is also among the bottom 10 and with change could expect to move off this list of ignominy.
Where these states would no doubt like to land is on the top 10 list, which the Center this month identified as, in order from the top spot, Utah, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Illinois, West Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland.
Of course, this exercise isn’t just about making a list. Financial literacy is linked to positive outcomes including wealth accumulation, stock market participation, retirement planning, and avoidance of high-cost alternative borrowing like payday and auto title loans. States are beginning to appreciate the importance of mandated financial education. Slowly, they are overcoming obstacles to making financial instruction part of the school day.
After all, small steps when you are young can make a big difference later. Slow and steady is how Warren Buffett started—and in part how he ultimately landed on the inarguably more interesting top 10 list from Forbes.