A bag with $165 in cash accompanied sheets of information for participants of a financial seminar for educators and businesses Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the cash was shredded.
“This money is useless to us,” state Representative Ann Coody said. “Unless we know how to use it, then it’s absolutely useless to us.”
And the same goes for the state’s youth, said Coody, who co-authored legislation that requires schools to begin teaching financial skills to students next year.
Coody and other speakers made the argument at the workshop, “Financial Education in Oklahoma: From Policy to Action,” for the need for students to understand money matters like credit card debt and taxes.
More students leave college because of financial problems than because of academic problems. Oklahomans have set record bankruptcy rates for nine out of 10 years. The state is in the top ten for greatest credit card debt per capita. Divorce — of which a leading cause is financial problems — is at an all-time high.
“Unless our children … realize that (a credit card) is not just a plastic ticket to success, then they are doomed to failure,” Coody said.
This year’s sixth-graders will be the first students to need to obtain a “passport to financial literacy” in order to graduate. Students must be taught 14 financial topics between the seventh and 12th grades.
But middle school is not too early to start.
“My daughter got her first credit card application when she was 9,” said Penny Kugler of the University of Central Missouri.
Missouri implemented a similar school program two years ago, Kugler said.
Here, the state Education Department is working on curriculum and assessment tools for educators. But it also is counting on existing programs by banks and other economic institutions to provide help, said Kerri White, director of math curriculum for the state.
Robyn Hilger with the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation also suggested schools and businesses contact local education foundations, which may already have such connections.
To take matters into your own hands, visit www.dallasfed.org/ca/wealth/index.cfm. The site has a beginner’s guide to becoming financially savvy. The “Building Wealth” program is available in English and Spanish, and in print and interactive formats.
Wendy K. Kleinman