They don’t even know how to read a paycheck.

2 minute read

Even as they approach adulthood, students lack basic financial literacy.

The latest research from EVERFI, a tech company for financial education, shows that less than half of high school juniors and seniors know how to check their credit scores, maintain a budget, or determine their net pay from a paycheck.

“As young people move toward financial independence, it’s necessary they understand the most basic and foundational financial lessons,” said Ray Martinez, president and co-founder of EVERFI. “But it’s going to be difficult to budget or manage credit if you can’t read a paycheck.”

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Financial literacy courses can help

Financial ignorance is nothing new. Back in 2018, only about 3 in 10 Floridians could pass a financial literacy test. That’s why in March, Florida became the largest state to make a money management class a requirement for graduation. But that won’t take effect until 2023.

What about the millions of students who will go off to college before then? Their financial futures could be pretty bleak. Debt.com recently reported financial ignorance cost the average American almost $1,400 last year.

The EVERFI survey found that 60 percent of students don’t feel prepared to figure out the cost of college. Less than half said they feel like they could fill out a FAFSA form and only a third of those students felt like they could actually understand their loan offers.

Find out: Surveys Show Why FAFSA Needs to Be Simplified

Most of them don’t even understand what their student loan payments would look like.

“Many high school seniors across the country are at this moment preparing to make their largest buying decision, where to go to college and how to finance their education,” Martinez said. “These financial decisions can have serious implications that can last for decades and may impact the ability to buy a car or a first home.”

Students can’t begin to save major life purchases, because only 47 percent know how to open and manage a checking or savings account. They don’t even know how to create and follow a budget.

Find out: How to Create a Budget and Stick to It

The wheels of progress turn slow

In a perfect world, schools might do more to teach kids about financial literacy. But for now, in most states, it’s up to parents.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that most parents don’t teach their kids more than surface-level budgeting tips – if they teach them anything at all. Most parents wait too long to start teaching their teens. Likely because no one ever taught them about money.

“We are failing students if we leave how to finance higher education to dinner table conversations for those fortunate enough to have parents who understand the process,” Martinez said. “The data we’ve collected shows that students need real financial education, and they need it now.”

There are plenty of available resources, including the educational resources center here on Debt.com. It doesn’t matter where you start learning about money – as long as you get started.

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About the Author

Gillian Manning

Gillian Manning

Gillian Manning graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 2021 with her bachelor’s degree in journalism. At FAU she served as the editor-in-chief of the student-run newspaper, the University Press. During her time there, the paper saw an increase in content production, readership, and engagement. Before she even graduated, Gillian was published in various outlets such as South Florida Gay News and the Boca Raton Tribune.

Published by Debt.com, LLC