High school stu­dents need to learn how to man­age money

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - VIEWS & VOICES - By Ethan Kwon

The world ex­pects high school stu­dents to hit the ground run­ning af­ter grad­u­a­tion, as­sum­ing that we are equipped with the proper tools to be an adult. How­ever, when it comes to fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy and gain­ing the skills needed to make smart de­ci­sions about money, there are lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents.

Sav­ing, in­vest­ing, spend­ing — th­ese are terms my peers are fa­mil­iar with; yet, few can say they know how to save their money, or where, for that mat­ter. This means that stu­dents are thrust into the real world with­out the ca­pa­bil­ity to write checks, un­der­stand how to do their taxes, or how to in­vest and save money.

I feel for­tu­nate that my par­ents have taken the time to teach me about bud­get­ing, credit and debt, mort­gages and other fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy con­cepts. I have friends who are not as lucky and are left in the dark when it comes to the ba­sics such as the dif­fer­ence be­tween a credit and debit card.

While par­ents need to take an ac­tive role en­sur­ing that their child is fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate, schools should also play their part by weav­ing th­ese con­cepts into the cur­ricu­lum. In the past, my school re­quired stu­dents to pass a test that mea­sured, among many things, the fi­nan­cial com­pe­tency of stu­dents.

This test was called the HSTEC (Hawaii State Test of Es­sen­tial Com­pe­ten­cies) and in or­der to grad­u­ate, the test must have been passed or a sup­ple­men­tal course be taken. It is no longer re­quired but it is some­thing the school and depart­ment should con­sider im­ple­ment­ing again. Not for the sake of hav­ing a test, but rather, to give stu­dents an idea of the ar­eas they need to im­prove be­fore they make a fi­nan­cial mis­take that im­pacts the rest of their lives.

While par­ents and schools need to set an ex­am­ple and help by pro­vid­ing the lessons and re­sources for fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, stu­dents can take the ini­tia­tive by start­ing th­ese con­ver­sa­tions and show­ing the adults in our lives that we are ready and need th­ese tools.

There are a va­ri­ety of pro­grams and re­sources that are avail­able for stu­dents, fam­i­lies and schools to ex­plore. One ex­am­ple is the Stock Mar­ket Chal­lenge, which is a com­pe­ti­tion stu­dents can par­tic­i­pate in where they trade and buy se­cu­ri­ties as if they were on Wall Street. A group of class­mates and I par­tic­i­pated in the com­pe­ti­tion, and even though we did not get very far, there was a mul­ti­tude of con­cepts that we learned for the first time and prove to be re­mark­ably rel­e­vant as we come close to grad­u­at­ing.

In ad­di­tion to this com­pe­ti­tion, an In­tro­duc­tion to Col­lege Math course is avail­able at my school: its pri­mary fo­cus is math­e­mat­ics, but our in­struc­tor has as­signed a project in which stu­dents write checks, bal­ance a check­book, and aims to help stu­dents fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with rent, pay­checks, deb­its, cred­its and the con­se­quences of fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions.

Cour­ses that weave in fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy con­cepts will help ac­quaint stu­dents with es­sen­tial life skills and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how their fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions can af­fect their fu­ture.

Stu­dent life is filled with busy sched­ules and the short ca­pac­ity for do­ing things out­side of school and their in­ter­ests. In­te­grat­ing the con­cepts of fi­nances into their lives early gives them lee­way to make mis­takes in a safe place rather than hav­ing ev­ery­thing come crash­ing down on them in the long run.

A prime ex­am­ple of fi­nan­cial il­lit­er­acy for mil­len­ni­als is debt from stu­dent loans and col­lege in gen­eral; the reper­cus­sions of not han­dling th­ese is­sues pro­duce things like bad credit. Whether it is at home, school or prefer­ably both, the in­tro­duc­tion to fi­nances needs to be done in or­der to pre­vent fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from be­com­ing over­whelmed with eco­nomic duress and strug­gle.

Ethan Kwon, a Pearl City High School se­nior and soon-to-be vale­dic­to­rian, en­rolled in the In­tro­duc­tion to Col­lege Math course led by Daphne Oku­naga.

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