Female high school student writing during a lecture at school. There are people in the background.

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Students are taught the basics and still feel unprepared to handle finances as adults.

Parents do a better job teaching their kids about managing money than schools. Or parents just confuse them.

Most young adults (53 percent) who took financial literacy courses in high school weren’t ready to handle their finances when they grew up, says a study from investment group T.Rowe Price.

Out of the students who learned financial education in school, 34 percent say they’ve listened more to what their parents have taught them, compared to 8 percent who’ve taken lessons away from their financial literacy courses in school.

“Over the years, we’ve found that financial education works best when schools and parents work together to help kids understand money matters,” says Stuart Ritter, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price. “Even though financial education in both school and home have shown to be effective in preparing kids for ‘adulting’ responsibilities, it’s not perfect.”

Financial literacy in schools

Some experts argue that teaching financial literacy in school is a wasted effort, according to previous reporting. Contrary to what those experts believe, most young adults who’ve received financial education in school would say different.

The vast majority of these young adults (88 percent) say they rely on the financial education they received in high school to make decisions in adulthood. Eighty-six percent feel it should be taught in all schools, and 84 percent are glad they received financial education when they were younger.

Compared to students who didn’t have any financial education lessons in school, they have better financial habits as adults.

Financial habits learned in school

Those who received financial education school versus those who didn’t

  • Have a budget (81 percent vs. 72 percent)
  • Have an emergency fund (55 percent vs. 38 percent)
  • Say they’re good with money and finances (77 percent vs. 67 percent)
  • Have a retirement account (48 percent vs. 30 percent)

Then of course there are young adults who regularly spoke with their parents about finances when they were young, compared to those who didn’t.

Financial habits taught by parents

Those who talked to parents about finances versus those who didn’t

  • Have a budget (88 percent vs. 73 percent)
  • Have an emergency fund (60 percent vs. 43 percent)
  • Put 10 percent or more of their income toward savings (66 percent vs. 48 percent)
  • Have a retirement account (56 percent vs. 36 percent)

Bettering financial education for kids

Ritter feels it’s important for children to learn about finances at both school and home, but thinks parents and teachers should collaborate more frequently on what they’re teaching kids.

“We know that many parents have some reluctance to discuss money matters with their kids and that, oftentimes, kids begin making, spending, and saving money before parents or educators have helped them understand how it works,” Ritter says. “There’s an opportunity for parents and educators to have money conversations more consistently, sooner, and broaden the dialogue to include longer-term goals.”

That’s a great takeaway for kids and parents who learn finances in school. But, many children don’t have the same opportunities.

Another previous report from asked, who will teach our children financial education? Many Americans are never taught financial education. And a quarter estimate their lack of knowledge may cost them over $30,000 during their lifetimes, according to the National Financial Educators Council.

Financial education in school isn’t a priority to only those who received it – most Americans agree. One report from nonprofit organization Next Gen Personal Finance found over 90 percent of all students and parents say so. Another national poll RBC Wealth Management Bank found that of 87 percent of Americans want schools to teach financial literacy.

For students who receive financial education, it’s not perfect. But they are better off financially than those who don’t.

“We noticed that financial education is often happening too late with a focus too narrow,” Ritter says. “But some financial education is still better than none.”




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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of

Budgeting & Saving

financial literacy

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