away shores to the land of opportunity—not simply to survive, but to prosper in their pursuit of
life, liberty, and happiness. 7
In pursuing the American Dream, early and consistent financial education is critical for
two primary reasons. First, to ensure a base level of survival in this world, food, shelter, and
clothing are all essential, and they are all purchased with money. 8 Second, children must
understand the consequences of uninformed financial decisions, know how to evaluate existing
options, and make sound financial decisions before they are faced with them. 9 By the time
teenagers purchase their first cars, pay for insurance, buy cell phones, and decide whether to go to
college—one of the biggest financial decisions they will make in their life10—they must
understand the consequences of their financial decisions. 11
Despite the necessity of money and the early age at which kids start to interact with it,
basic financial skills such as budgeting, planning for retirement, saving for major purchases,
evaluating contracts, and calculating interest are not taught in many states. Financial skills
classes are part of the required curriculum in fewer than half the states, 12 indicating that the
majority of states expect parents to teach these skills. Some parents are experienced and
phenomenal teachers, while others do not understand how to use money themselves, and still
others will leave these lessons to the individual experience of the child rather than attempt to
teach their kids about personal finance. 13 The wide range in levels of proficiency in financial
7 See RICHARD HAW, THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE: A CULTURAL HISTORY 63 (2005). Millions of new immigrants “poured into New York
in the early years of the twentieth century. They sought a home in America . . . a Promised Land of religious freedom, financial
opportunity, and racial and social liberty.” Id.
8 See DAVID E. O’CONNOR, THE BASICS OF ECONOMICS 6 (2004) (explaining that depending on the society a person lives in, these
requirements can be relatively simplistic and in some basic cultures with traditional economies they do not produce much more than
their basic needs). Many traditional economies utilize systems of barter and exchange to ensure everyone meets their basic needs. Id.
In the United States it is primarily up to the individual to provide these and other “basics” to ensure the survival of his family. See
generally PEW RESEARCH CTR., ‘INFORMATION AGE’ BILLS KEEP PILING UP: WHAT AMERICANS PAY FOR AND HOW (Feb. 2007),
http://pewresearch.org/files/old-assets/social/pdf/Expenses.pdf (breaking down the common expenses Americans face).
9 See generally JUMP$TART COAL. FOR PERSONAL FIN. LITERACY, HOW TO RAISE A MONEY SMART CHILD: A PARENT’S GUIDE,
http://jumpstart.org/assets/files/MoneySmart%20Child.pdf (last visited Nov. 9, 2013) (teaching parents topics that they should cover
to help their children prepare to make smart financial decisions, particularly as they face some of their earliest decisions).
10 Caroline Howard, Ranking America’s Top Colleges, FORBES (Jul. 24, 2013),
11 JUMP TART COAL. FOR PERSONAL FIN. LITERAC Y, supra note 9, at 9. The average price tag for a college education in the 2012-2013
school year ranged from $22,000 for public institutions to $29,000 for private institutions. Kim Clark, Tuition at Public Colleges Rises
4.8%, CNN MONEY (Oct. 24, 2012), http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/24/pf/college/public-college-tuition/index.html. The price of a
college education continues to rise. Id. Despite its prohibitive cost, college remains a sound personal investment. Id.
12 See COUNCIL FOR ECON. EDUC., SURVEY OF THE STATES: ECONOMIC AND PERSONAL FINANCE EDUCATION IN OUR NATION’S
SCHOOLS 2011, at 1 (Mar. 2012), http://www.councilforeconed.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2011-Survey-of-the-States.pdf
(finding that only twenty-two states require students to take a high school course in economics and only fourteen states require schools
to offer a personal finance course). Since 2009, three fewer states require economics, and no states have added personal finance
requirements. Id.; see also FINRA INVESTOR EDUC. FOUND., FINANCIAL CAPABILITY IN THE UNITED STATES: NATIONAL SURVEY —
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 5 (Dec. 2009),
http://www.finrafoundation.org/web/groups/foundation/@foundation/documents/foundation/p120535.pdf (examining the financial
capabilities of Americans via a nationwide survey).
13 See Dan Kadlec, Financial Education: A Job for Teachers or Parents?, BUS. TIME (Oct. 8, 2012),
http://business.time.com/2012/10/08/financial-education-a-job-for-teachers-or-parents/ (“If we leave it to the parents, we are accepting
that we have an unequal society,” said Annamaria Lusardi, global leader in the financial literacy movement. Lusardi’s research
demonstrates that financial literacy accounts for almost fifty percent of the wealth gap between affluent and low-income families);
Marc C. Schug, Foreword to REFRAMING FINANCIAL LI TERACY: EXPLORING THE VALUE OF SOCIAL CURRENCY, at vii, vii (Thomas A.
Lucey & James D. Laney eds., Info. Age Publ’g 2012) (discussing the prevalence of financial illiteracy and referring to it as the civil
rights issue of today); see also Getting It Right on The Money, ECONOMIST (Apr. 3, 2008), http://www.economist.com/node/10958702
(examining the scope of the financial illiteracy problem in America and how people shy away from the issue). “Everybody wants it.
Nobody understands it. Money is the great taboo. People just won’t talk about it. And that is what leads you to subprime. Take the
greed and the financial misrepresentation out of it, and the root of this crisis is massive levels of financial illiteracy.” Id. But see
generally RICHARD H. THALER & CASS R. SUNSTEIN, NUDGE: IMPROVING DECISIONS ABOUT HEALTH, WEALTH, AND HAPPINESS
103–58 (Revised & Expanded ed., Penguin Books 2009) (2008) (arguing that financial literacy is challenging in today’s complex and
ever changing economic climate).