Wisconsin Could Soon Set The Bar For Personal Finance Education


Just 17 states in the United States require high school students to take a course in personal finance, according to the Council for Economic Education.

And while the sheer lack of access to personal finance education may seem abysmal it actually gets worse as according to the report, a mere 20 states required high school students to take a course in economics in 2016, which is actually two fewer states than in 2014.

It should come as little surprise then that a 2012 worldwide assessment of young people’s financial literacy found that more than one in six students in the United States failed to reach the baseline level of proficiency. Overall, the Council for Economic Education’s report said, American students fall in the middle of the pack globally, performing on average just behind Latvia and just ahead of Russia.

Thankfully, states like Wisconsin are looking to change this statistic by potentially introducing a financial literacy curriculum to its required courses in K-12 schools.

In June the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that will require each school board to adopt academic standards and incorporate instruction in financial literacy into its curriculum. The bill passed with bipartisan support.

One of the bill’s major backers is the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

“We want to pull out all the stops to help raise the financial acumen for everybody in Wisconsin,” Michael Semmann of the Wisconsin Bankers Association told the Journal Sentinel.

Semmann additionally explained to Forbes that the group and the bill aim to assist students in many different phases of their education to have a “sustained understanding and sustained effort” in financial literacy.

Learnings, Semmann noted, could include a third grader being instructed on the basic concept of what is money and how it works or even provide instruction on budgeting and saving his or her allowance.


So why hasn’t this program been implemented before if it has bipartisan support?

“I think it does come down to a question of mandates,” Semmann said, meaning that the schools would be required to teach the classes but gain no resources in return. However, he added, with this bill, districts would be provided with materials for free.

One of those resources, Semmann pointed out, is My Mazuma, a one-stop shop for personal financial literacy questions. According to Semmann the site already contains hundreds of resources for educators to use. The entire purpose, he said, is to aggregate and amplify what’s already out there for schools to pull from.

“There are lots of resources that are out there. The state has its own model curricula,” Semmann said. “That’s why we started to move toward a more qualitative resource.”

On the site teachers, parents, students and the average citizen can search for resources on everything from basic budgeting to student loan repayment. It will become a key resource for teachers across the state should the bill become law.

As for other curriculum suggestions, Cary Siegel, author of Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School said that “without a doubt, the number one thing high school students need to learn is how to develop, track and analyze a budget.” Additionally, for high schoolers who are about to become eligible for their first credit card, Siegel said that understanding “credit and debt, including the danger of credit cards, what determines your credit score, why you need to stay out of debt and the time value of money” is essential.

Tom Corley, the author of Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life, said that teachers should help students build upon their knowledge year over year. For example, in a student’s freshman year teachers could focus their class on how to pay bills and balance a checkbook. By senior year the class could advance to personal income tax fundamentals.

Semmann noted he’s “optimistic” the bill will pass when the state’s Senate takes it up in the fall. If all goes well the curriculum will be implemented for the 2018-2019 school year.