literacy was America’s recent financial crisis, which was fueled in part by homebuyers entering
into mortgages they either could not afford or did not understand. 24 To combat the economic
instability created by financial illiteracy—and to truly adhere to the values of equality the nation
espouses—America must provide financial education in public schools to ensure all children are
provided a base level of economic understanding. Because financial decisions begin as early as
adolescence, the younger this learning starts the better. 25
Part II of this Article examines the prevalence of financial illiteracy in America today and
illustrates that, given the pervasiveness of financial illiteracy among American adults, not every
parent has the knowledge base necessary to teach his or her children healthy financial skills.
Next, Part III discusses the ramifications of the pervasiveness of financial illiteracy by looking at
the various ways financial illiteracy generates economic instability, impacting America’s youth
and adults alike. Part IV draws upon the problems generated by financial illiteracy among
American adults to explain that leaving it to parents to provide financial education breeds
financial inequality, as parents have widely different levels of financial knowledge. Then, Part V
suggests that the best solution to the problem of financial illiteracy is to provide financial literacy
programs in public schools, and proposes standards for financial curricula as well as how to
implement such curricula, and examines possible methods of funding. Finally, Part VI concludes
by reiterating the need for greater financial literacy to ensure the success of America’s youth as
they grow and contribute to the economy—ensuring a true chance at financial equality for all.
II. GROWING FINANCIAL ILLITERACY IN AMERICA
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for
if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” 26
Financial illiteracy is commonplace in American society. Indeed, many Americans lack
the foundational personal finance skills necessary for successful participation in the American
economic system. 27 Moreover, the concern over the number of people categorized as financially
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112shrg67127/pdf/CHRG-112shrg67127.pdf (statement of Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman, Bd. of
Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys.).
The recent crisis demonstrated the critical importance of financial literacy and good financial decision[-]making, both for the economic welfare of households and for the soundness and stability of the system as a
whole. Good financial choices depend on reliable and useful information, presented in an understandable way.
Essential components of personal financial management include an understanding of how to budget
strategically, use credit, save to build personal wealth, and shop for and choose suitable financial products.
24 See Jeffrey T. Dinwoodie, Ignorance Is Not Bliss: Financial Illiteracy, The Mortgage Market Collapse, and the Global Economic
Crisis, 18 U. MIAMI BUS. L. REV. 181, 182 (2010) (detailing the role the collapse of the housing market played in the American and
global economic crisis).
25 FIN. LITERACY & EDUC. COMM’N, TAKING OWNERSHIP OF THE FUTURE: THE NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR FINANCIAL LITERACY 83
(2006), http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/financial-education/Documents/FLEC_NS_Book_4-5-06.pdf. “Like all learning,
financial education is a process that should begin at an early age and continue throughout life. This cumulative process builds the
skills necessary for making critical financial decisions that affect one’s ability to attain the assets, such as education, property, and
savings, that improve economic well-being.” Alan Greenspan, Chairman, Fed. Res. Bd., Remarks at the Federal Reserve System’s
Fourth Annual Community Affairs Research Conference (Apr. 8, 2005), available at
http://www.federalreserve.gov/BoardDocs/speeches/2005/20050408/ (discussing the consumer finance market and the expansion of
consumer transaction and credit options).
26 Quotation of Henry Ford in Famous Quotations on Banking, THE MONEY MASTERS, http://www.themoneymasters.com/the-money-
masters/famous-quotations-on-banking/ (last visited Nov. 10, 2013). See generally HENRY FORD & SAMUEL CROWTHER, MY LIFE
AND WORK 156 (CruGuru 2008) (1922) (discussing Henry Ford’s views on the American banking system).
27 See FINRA INVESTOR EDUC. FOUND., supra note 12, at 5, 17–18 (demonstrating that a number of Americans cannot answer
questions about financial concepts derived from common economic activities such as calculating interest on a loan). For example,
fewer than half of survey respondents were able to correctly answer both a math question about inflation and a question about interest.