Equipping the Future: Louisiana’s Bold Move to Mandate Financial Literacy in High Schools

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During the latest legislative session, the Louisiana Legislature designated April as Financial Literacy Month in Louisiana. The goal of HR 120 was to bring awareness to the need for all Louisianans to make improvements in their financial lives. In 2023, Rep. Nicholas Muscarello passed a piece of legislation, which is now known as Act 267, that requires a financial literacy course as a prerequisite for high school students to graduate. As a result, this school year, Louisiana high schools will begin implementing financial literacy in more classrooms across the state. The decision to prioritize financial literacy education in high school classrooms will equip students with essential life skills. This proactive approach will prepare students for financial independence and contribute to the overall economic well-being of the state.

Recently, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) conducted an online, interactive, 7-question survey testing a user’s financial literacy. At the time this article was created, the national average score was only 3.2 out of 7 (45.7%) correct answers. According to MarketWatch, only about 57% of adults in the United States are financially literate. According to the 2023-2024 ‘The Nation’s Report Card on Financial Literacy,’ published by the American Public Education Foundation, Americans owe $1.11 trillion in credit card debt, and only 68% of Americans could cover an unexpected $400 expense using cash on hand. The report gave Louisiana a report card score of ‘B,’ up from its previous scores due to the improved implementation of financial literacy in the classroom.

Through financial literacy, students will be empowered to make informed decisions about money management, budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management. This knowledge will help them take control of their financial future from a young age. Financial literacy is a practical skill that students will use throughout their lives. Concepts like compound interest, credit scores, and budgeting (that can be difficult for many students to understand) will equip them to better navigate the complexities of personal finance as adults.

Understanding financial concepts can help students avoid falling into debt traps later in life. By learning about responsible borrowing and the consequences of excessive debt, students can make more informed decisions when it comes to taking out loans or using credit cards. It can plant the seeds for building wealth and financial security. Students who understand how to save, invest, and plan for the future are more likely to achieve their financial goals in the long run.

Having a grasp of personal finances is essential for career readiness. Students who are financially literate are better equipped to negotiate salaries, manage workplace benefits, and plan for retirement, setting them up for success in the workforce. This education can play a key role in breaking the cycle of poverty by equipping students with the knowledge and skills to manage money effectively. Louisiana can empower future generations to achieve financial independence and upward mobility.

Incorporating financial literacy education into high school curriculum is an investment in the future financial well-being of students and our society. Providing young people with the tools they need to make sound financial decisions will help them build a stable and prosperous future for themselves and their families. Financial literacy is contagious and is passed from generation to generation. Job well done, Louisiana!

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