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American Financial Literacy for the Future

Almost three quarters of American teens do not feel confident in their own financial literacy skills. Fifteen percent of these uneasy students do not even know where to begin. Unfortunately, this statistic is not surprising given that American high schools choose to teach pointless parabolas in math class instead of taxes that will actually need to be done, and will affect their futures. These poor students will soon be thrown into the world with little to no knowledge of real world financial skills. 

Teens are not the only ones suffering from this lack of financial knowledge though. In fact, studies have shown that only 24% of American Millennials can correctly answer ⅘ questions on a financial literacy quiz. The youngest Millennials are in their mid twenties, and the oldest are approaching 40- meaning these are people who have been living in the real world for years, and still are not confident in their financial skills. We are doing a grave disservice to future generations by not equipping them with the proper financial literacy knowledge to be successful.

In a capitalistic society, students should be required to learn financial literacy in high school so they are well equipped to deal with finances in the real world. Capitalism is a system that benefits off of the exploitation of the working class -- meaning that it is beneficial for those in power to keep the proletariat financially illiterate. Financial illiteracy is especially dangerous in today’s economy, where it is too easy to make financial decisions that cascade and cause lifelong damages. Teaching students financial literacy early on can help prevent these damages.

Capitalism inherently benefits from the ignorance of its users; it literally cannot function without some form of exploitation. In fact, Capitalism is defined as  “A socio-economic system based especially on private ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of the labor force.” Separating workers from the means of production keeps them oblivious to the true value of their labor, allowing them to be further exploited. 

Financial literacy indicates that worker’s pay should be rising alongside inflation; withholding this information from the general public allows the upper class to continue profiteering off of the underpaid labor. We can combat this injustice based on ignorance through proper education for future generations of workers to know their financial worth. 

Proper education is essential for individual freedom, and those with more financial knowledge have more financial freedom.  Results have indicated that financially literate people contribute more to bettering the economy as a whole by further closing the wealth gap. When more people make more money, it means they can spend more, putting money back into the economy to circulate more, which is good for everyone. 

Financial debts and mistakes are not easily forgiven and often pile up on each other, so having a strong start is crucial. However, in the U.S. highschool students graduate with little proper education in such topics; despite college being one of the most expensive and influential investments in their. Before making such a life changing decision, a certain amount of guidance must be given in regards to inflation, debt, financial aid and how other expenses will be covered during studies. Improper management of money early can have drastic consequences on their future.

Sources show that financially illiterate choices detrimentally affect people long term by damaging their chances of getting loans for cars or houses by having bad credit habits. It is practically impossible to get by in our society without having a car or a home, so the inability to attain these things is putting our future generations at an unfair disadvantage. Teaching financial literacy can help prevent these problems before they arise.

Current generations of young people are much more affected by the dangers of financial illiteracy than older generations have been. Data implies that older generations benefited from public funding for things such as college, and that millennials are dealing with tremendous amounts of student loan debt that previous generations did not have. Older generations had more of a financial aid cushion than current generations do, so the stakes for making an uneducated financial decision are a lot higher than they used to be. 

In an economic system like capitalism that benefits off of the average user’s ignorance, and when the stakes of being financially illiterate are at an all time high, the benefits that teaching financial literacy in high school yields far outweigh the cost. Making proper financial literacy education mandatory in high schools across the United States is most definitely a worthwhile investment.


Written and Edited by Alyssa Phillips


Alyssa Phillips is a senior at California State University, Monterey Bay. She advocates for financial literacy education because she has seen how she and those in her age group struggle with managing their own finances.


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