(ARA) - Even though financial education courses for children are proven to contribute to improved savings rates and other financial measures, only 12 states require a personal finance course for high school graduation, according to the Council for Economic Education's 2011 Survey of the States.
In classrooms, studies show teachers want to provide personal finance instruction, but only 20 percent believe they have the capability to teach the subject, according to a study by the National Endowment for Financial Education. The benefits to students are real: Treasury Department research shows that high school graduates in states that mandate financial education have higher savings rates and a greater net worth than graduates from states without financial education.
As a result of the growing awareness about the importance of financial education, more resources are becoming available to teachers and parents. To help with funding for schools, a program called Pathway to Financial Success (www.PathwaytoFinancialSuccess.org), from Discover Financial Services, recently announced thousands of dollars in grants to public high schools to implement financial education curriculum and test students to make sure they are learning the content. Schools can apply for the grants via the website, and Discover will fund the grants up to a total of $2 million annually. Additionally, nonprofits like The Council for Economic Education are training teachers around the country, helping them teach children from kindergarten through high school about personal finance topics, such as saving and investing.
At home, parents can help reinforce what children learn about money. Unfortunately, these conversations are often not happening, as experts say parents are often more comfortable talking about sex, drugs and alcohol than they are about money - usually because parents do not trust their own financial acumen.
Indeed, it can be an awkward conversation, as the issue of money raises other concerns and priorities. But a number of resources are available to help parents talk to their children about money, such as the Jump$tart Coalition (www.jumpstart.org).
Pathway to Financial Success also offers an online resource center for parents, providing tips on how to talk to their kids about how to manage money effectively. Additionally, through the site parents can identify their school district contacts and find resources to reach out to their school administrators and teachers about bringing financial education into their children's classrooms.
For teachers, PathwaytoFinancialSuccess.org also provides sample lesson plans and other resources they can use in their classrooms.
Parents can start helping ensure their children are financially savvy by talking to their kids about money using a few simple steps at home:
* Use everyday experiences to talk about money. With tax season around the corner, talk to kids about the process, or engage them in the discussion of purchasing a large item and weighing the "wants" versus "needs" of the purchase.
* Talk to your kids about saving for a special purchase, and set small, manageable goals for them to reach.
* Be honest about your financial situation or poor financial decisions you have made in the past, and then talk to your kids about how you could have handled the situation differently.
* Make it fun by playing online games that teach common lessons of budgeting and saving.
Talking about money may not be fun - or even comfortable - but it is an issue that all families and young adults should confront with as much information as possible. There are resources available to help for all situations.