Financial Literacy Should Be a Required Class


David Molina, Staff Writer

Let’s face it: we high school students love to spend money. Some places include Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and the newly opened Marylou’s among others.

But there’s more to personal finance than spending. Do we know how to set a monthly budget? How do we pay off the outstanding debt on our credit cards? 

Personal financial literacy is an important and essential life skill that all of us will have to use on a daily basis once we become adults. Most of us will live in a house or an apartment, drive a car, and have access to food, water, and clothing. We’ll also be paying bills for our health insurance, electricity, and entertainment, even our precious phones.

As of this writing, 16 states require students to take a personal financial literacy class, the most recent states being New Hampshire and North Carolina. Other states that require the classes include Michigan, Florida, and Georgia. Massachusetts, however, is not one of those states. In fact, personal financial literacy requirements are rare in public schools across our state, either not being taught or being taught as an elective.

By those standards, we are fortunate at Waltham High School to have an elective in personal financial literacy taught by Mr. Wilder.

“110% [sic] students should be required to take financial literacy in order to graduate.  I stand firmly on that stance. Why? We require students to be physically healthy, mentally healthy, but why not financially healthy? I’d argue that financial health helps with physical and mental well being. It’s such a critical part of the future of all citizens. It’s under taught in our high school. Also, students find it interesting and practical, so why not offer this as a requirement then? I would push for this, advocate for it, and speak on behalf of this topic at any time to any audience.”

A 2021 study by Greenlight showed that 74% of teenagers do not feel confident about their personal finance knowledge. That same study also showed that 75% of teenagers learned about personal finance through their parents; 52% learned through school; and 42% learned through social media. Another study that same year by the Boston Herald shows that just 4.9% of Massachusetts high school students are guaranteed to take a personal finance course before graduation.

Massachusetts also has the highest average consumer debt compared to other states that comprise New England at $115,671.

Personal financial literacy is undervalued, not only here at our high school (or the district) but in other areas of the United States. Taking the class – especially if it were to be required – can positively benefit people’s knowledge of finance, especially as students are slowly becoming more independent. Good financial knowledge is paramount to being successful later in life.