Teachers support personal finance education

Teachers support personal finance education

by Courtney Poquette, et al We are Vermont educators who teach high school personal finance, and we are united in support of legislation that would guarantee a full-semester, standalone personal finance course as a graduation requirement for all Vermont students.

Why is it so important to the future of our young students? Research by Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) and others demonstrates clearly that guaranteed personal finance education leads to positive outcomes and improves lives forever.

That is why we heartily endorse HB228, which would require just such a standalone course.

The traditional approach in high school is to teach students how to manage money for companies they will work for. But our young people never learn how to manage their own money, and their parents often are not money-savvy either, since they also were not taught personal finance.

In 2023, we believe that all high school graduates must be financially literate, whether they are headed to college, work or the military after graduation.

We are fortunate to be in schools that have a guaranteed personal finance course. Many of us have designed our own lessons and materials, but now, free curricula, lesson plans and other resources are available online through non-profits like NGPF.

Some high schools have partnered with the Community College of Vermont to attract students to the class who were college bound and had busy schedules. Now they can take the class and obtain college credit.

Our students think they will be rich if they earn $40,000 a year when they graduate. In our classes, we help them to realize how expensive their dream lifestyles are. Such reality checks force them to question decisions in their near futures, like college majors, job salaries, the cost of credit and more.

You would not believe how often we hear from students and their parents that our course has changed the direction of students’ lives for the better. And as teachers, we learn too. After all, we have household budgets, kids to send to college and retirement to think about.

Not long ago, a report showed that parents would rather talk to their kids about sex than about money. Personal finance classes make talking about money at the dinner table the new normal. Students in our classes use math, reading and language skills while working on monthly budgets and retirement plans. What could be more important today?

Many of Vermont’s educators have become confident teaching personal finance through free training provided by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, NGPF or other organizations like the Jump$tart Coalition.

So we have confident, trained teachers, free curriculum and with innovative ideas, we can make room for high school personal finance. There is no reason not to move forward.

The good news is that teachers, administrators and legislators across the nation are passionately advocating for this change. As of this writing, 17 states have passed legislation guaranteeing full-semester personal finance courses, and NGPF reports that there are currently 74 bills in 21 other states, including Vermont, in process.

We hope all states, including Vermont, adopt a guaranteed high school course. It’s an especially important issue in many black and brown school districts, where access to personal finance learning is more limited than in whiter, more affluent district.

Personal finance is a critical skill that perhaps more than any course sets  students up to succeed in life. We never have to explain to our students why the course is important. They get it. Let’s make sure all Vermont high school students get it.


Courtney Poquette, Winooski High School, Winooski

Mary Brouilette, Bellows Free Academy, St. Albans

Bob Fredette, Lamoille Union High School, Hyde Park

Angela Pandis, Missisquoi Valley Union HS/MS, Swanton

Drew Gordon, South Burlington High School, Burlington



Evidence that Financial Education Improves Behavioral Outcomes


Evidence-Based Policy & Implementation Resources


Evidence that Financial Education Improves Behavioral Outcomes


a) The Effects of K-12 Financial Education Mandates on Student Postsecondary Education Outcomes

Research from the National Endowment for Financial Education. Financial education mandates have positive impacts on student borrowing behaviors across all income groups. States with personal finance graduation requirements have students with a higher incidence of applying for financial aid, a lower incidence of borrowing from private student lenders, a higher incidence of receiving grants and federal aid, and a lower likelihood of carrying credit card balances.


b) Does Financial Education Impact Financial Literacy and Financial Behavior, and If So, When?

Most earlier studies of financial education rely on outdated financial education requirements. Kaiser and Menkhoff show significant positive effects of financial education on both financial literacy (knowledge) and financial behavior. This meta-analysis corrects an often cited meta-analysis from Fernandes et. al. (2014), adding additional interventions and a more rigorous statistical methodology to make its conclusions. Compelling, rigorously critiqued evidence of the need for “just in time” financial education for high school students.


c) Financial Education Matters: Testing the Effectiveness of Financial Education Across 76 Randomized Experiments

We study the rapidly growing literature on the causal effects of financial education programs in a meta-analysis of 76 randomized experiments with a total sample size of over 160,000 individuals. The evidence shows that financial education programs have, on average, positive causal treatment effects on financial knowledge and downstream financial behaviors. Treatment effects are economically meaningful in size, similar to those realized by educational interventions in other domains, and are at least three times as large as the average effect documented in earlier work. These results are robust to the method used, restricting the sample to papers published in top economics journals, including only studies with adequate power, and accounting for publication selection bias in the literature. We conclude with a discussion of the cost-effectiveness of financial education interventions.


d) Does State-Mandated Financial Education Affect High-Cost Borrowing? (UPDATED 2019)

“…young adults who were required to take personal finance courses in high school were significantly less

likely to borrow payday loans than their peers who were not. These effects do not significantly differ by race/ethnicity or gender, suggesting that financial education may be useful regardless of demographics.” 


e) Retirement Savings with School-Based Financial Education

Students’ financial literacy performance is significantly associated with their schools’ and teachers’ characteristics, both positive and negative. Students who attend a school with adequate teaching materials and competent teachers — those who demonstrate control over their classroom and try to actively engage with students — are more likely to perform at the two highest levels on the PISA financial literacy test.


f) Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality

Financial literacy plays a key role in explaining inequality. Different levels of financial knowledge early in life have important implications for how much people will save. Adding financial knowledge to life cycle models permits a more accurate rendering of a world where consumers must cope with complex financial markets and must save so as to provide for their own retirement.


g) The impact of high school financial education: experimental evidence from Brazil

This paper studies the impact of a comprehensive financial education program spanning six states, 868 schools, and approximately 20,000 high school students in Brazil through a randomized control trial. The program increased student financial knowledge, increased saving rates for purchases, better likelihood of financial planning, and greater participation in household financial decisions by students. “Trickle-up” impacts on parents were also significant, with improvements in parent financial knowledge, savings, and spending behavior. The study also finds evidence that the program affected students’ inter-temporal preferences and attitudes.


h) Personal Finance Education Mandates & Student Loan Repayment

“Students with higher-income parents respond by adjusting borrowing, reducing median balances by 7%. By contrast, first-generation and low-income borrowers bound by mandates did not significantly adjust borrowing, but were nonetheless more likely to pay down balances..”


i) Can financial literacy reduce domestic violence?

“Yes. Using data on more than 3.7 million intimate partner violence (IPV) incidents between 1994 and 2016, and exploiting the staggered introduction of state-mandated personal finance high school graduation requirements across U.S. states for identification, we show that improvements in women’s financial literacy can significantly reduce the rates of violence against women perpetrated by their male partners. We conservatively estimate a reduction in violence by between 3% and 11%. Our evidence points to financial literacy deterring financial abuse, thereby empowering women to leave abusive relationships earlier or by preventing the first incident from ever occurring.”


Evidence-Based Policy & Implementation Resources


a) Transforming the Financial Lives of a Generation of Young Americans POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ADVANCING K-12 FINANCIAL EDUCATION

What we propose here is a comprehensive strategy to impart personal financial management skills to young people while they are in school. Recommendation 1: Introduce key financial education concepts early and continue to build on that foundation consistently throughout the K-12 school years. In addition, CFPB encourages states to make a stand-alone financial education course a graduation requirement for high school students. Recommendation 2: Include personal financial management questions in standardized tests. Recommendation 3: Provide opportunities throughout the K-12 years to practice money management through innovative, hands-on learning opportunities. Recommendation 4: Create consistent opportunities and incentives for teachers to take financial education training with the express intention of teaching financial management to their students


Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2013). Transforming the Financial Lives of a Generation of Young Americans POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ADVANCING K-12 FINANCIAL EDUCATION. [online] consumerfinance.gov. Available at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201304_cfpb_OFE-Policy-White-Paper-Final.pdf


b) Final Report – President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability

The Council acknowledges that financial capability must be woven into the fabric of our lives—into our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our communities, even the design and regulation of the financial products and services we use. 


United States Treasury. (2013). Final Report President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. [online] treasury.gov. Available at: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/financial-education/Documents/PACFC%20final%20report%20revised%2022513%20%288%29_R.pdf


c) Financial Capabilities of College Students from States with Varying Financial Education Policies

Well-educated students exhibit positive financial behaviors. After analyzing data from 15,797 college students, Gutter found that students from states where a financial education course was required had the highest reported financial knowledge and were more likely to display positive financial behaviors and dispositions. Compared to other students, these young adults were: More likely to save; Less likely to max out their credit cards; Less likely to make late credit card payments; More likely to pay off credit cards in full each month; Less likely to be compulsive buyers; More likely to be willing to take average financial risk



d) Financial Education in High Schools Across America

State-level embedded course requirement mandates do not result in full compliance. While this lack of compliance could be because course catalog descriptions do not detail financial literacy instruction in all schools, it could also be because state departments of education have trouble auditing embedded course mandates. In our estimate, only 43% within states that have embedded course mandates have either a standalone or embedded course requirement.


e) Financial Literacy Subject Survey

Between July 15th and 17th, 2017 the National Financial Educators Council asked 5,123 young adults, “What high school-level course would benefit your life the most?” Respondents chose money management more often than math, science, and social studies:

  • 49.97% selected “Money Management (Personal Finance)”
  • 18.25% selected “Mathematics (Algebra, Geometry)”
  • 14.43% selected “Social Studies (History, Government)”
  • 17.35% selected “Science (Biology, Chemistry)”


State by state results are available: NFEC Survey: “Should High Schools Require Financial Literacy?” 


NFEC. (2017). Financial Literacy Subject Survey. [online] Available at: https://www.financialeducatorscouncil.org/Financial-literacy-subject-survey/


f) A review of youth financial education: Effects and Evidence

“This report reviews current research and reporting in the field, and is intended to inform policymakers, practitioners, financial educators, and researchers of the current state of rigorous evidence on financial education in schools”… “This report features studies that (1) evaluate youth financial education programs in schools, (2) have a causal interpretation evidenced by a randomized controlled trial, natural experiment setting, or a valid pre-post study design, and (3) have been published in peer-reviewed academic journals or as reviewed working papers. Note that the studies predominantly relate to school based programs, as this is the context in which most youth financial education research has occurred.”

  • “Well-implemented state financial education mandates led to a clear improvement in financial behaviors.”
  • “Many U.S. financial education programs improve financial knowledge for students, though effect sizes vary based on the population served, amount of instruction time, and topics covered.”
  • “Other countries have used more widespread randomized controlled trials to study the effects of programs as they embed and expand them broadly. Those studies also provide useful information.”
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2019). A review of youth financial education: Effects and Evidence. [online] consumerfinance.gov. Available at: https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/cfpb_youth-financial-education_lit-review.pdf


g) Digital vs. in-person financial education: What works best for Generation Z?

“Nowadays, financial literacy is one of the most important skills that can be acquired by a tech-savvy Generation Z student. In order to understand what format of financial education works best for Generation Z, we set up an experiment that involved implementing a financial education program called “Futuro Sicuro” with a sample of 650 High School students in Italy. The program allowed us to gather data from two treatments at the class level, namely 1) a traditional financial education simplified program with the presence of a financial advisor, and 2) a digital financial education program using web-based applications based on learning-by-playing concepts. The two treatments were associated with different costs but showed similar effects: three weeks after their conclusion, we find that both courses did increase actual financial knowledge and the results also aligned with participants’ realistic assessments of their own financial skills. A follow-up study also reveals the persistence of these effects three months later for the traditional course.”


h) Best Practices Implementing Financial Education in High Schools

“…breaks the implementation into eight stages: (0) building a coalition, (1) crafting and passing either legislation or administrative rule change, (2) constructing an implementation plan, (3) funding, (4) teacher professional development, (5) developing standards and selecting course resources, (6) teacher endorsement models, and (7) auditing and creating a feedback loop for continuous improvement.”

Urban, Carly (2022). Best Practices Implementing Financial Education in High Schools [online] Available at: https://papers.carlyurban.com/MTBestPracticesReportFINAL.pdf