April is National Financial Literacy Month, which was originally started by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) before they turned it over to the Jump$tart Coalition.
NEFE envisioned a nation where everyone has the knowledge, confidence, and opportunity to live their best financial life. Luckily, they have made some progress with translating the importance of this education throughout school districts in the US, but there is still very a long way to go.
Whether we are earning, saving, investing, borrowing, spending, or giving, we are thinking about money - every day. This day-to-day interaction with money and the way we handle it is all part of our “financial well-being”.
But what exactly is financial well-being?
A few years ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found out that there was not really a good definition for “financial well-being”, so they did some research and summed it up this way: Financial well-being can be defined as a state of being wherein a person can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow enjoyment of life.1
Keeping in mind that the term was also deemed subjective, what comes to your mind when you think of financial wellness? Personally, I think of two words, freedom and security.
• Freedom – having control of how you want to live your life.
• Security – having the ability to weather emergencies and meet planned goals.
The opposite of that could be: captivity and insecurity.
• Captivity – your life and future are controlled by someone/something else.
• Insecurity – being fearful and anxious of what the future holds.
In short, financial well-being is tied to financial knowledge -a learned skill that, believe it or not, is not easy to come by.
Check out a few statistics from the latest Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) annual report2 , it's a real eye-opener:
- Only 6 states mandate that their state public school systems require a stand-alone personal finance class prior to graduation.
- Outside of the 6 states, only 1 in 13 students at schools where 75% of students were eligible for free or reduced lunches were required to take a personal financial course prior to graduating.
- In schools where 75% + are students of color, only 1 in 14 were guaranteed to take Personal Finance prior to graduating.
- Lenders openly solicit high school seniors to take on debt (student loans and credit cards).
Learning these and additional stats available should trigger us to speak up as advocates for basic personal financial education as a stand-alone part of school curriculum.
To see if the school district that your taxes are going to is on board, you can check here3 or here
Oh, and by the way, do not be fooled by the younger generation’s confidence in their use of financial technology. Fintech is great, but it does not replace the core competencies required to balance a budget, manage debt, or create a basic financial plan. This was shown in an NEFE-funded study4 that found while Millennials are more engaged in their financial lives, they are also deeply in debt with a financial disconnect that currently exists and is growing.
We can probably all agree that inequity, as well as inequality exists in this nation, but many Americans do not agree on the role that government plays in balancing the scales. One could argue that a top-down approach to financial freedom could end up having an opposite effect.
As members of the financial industry, we should all be advocates for financial literacy. If our nation is to free itself of unfair practices and financial imbalance, we need to start empowering our communities with this critical information through education today.
At The Pacific Financial Group, we are forever optimistic and firmly believe that financial education and valuable financial advice for everyone is achievable and enables all ships to rise.
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