Financial Education Can Pay Dividends for Youth

According to statistics from the National Council on Economic Education, only seven states require high school students to take a personal finance course while eight others require courses with personal finance content.

This was from a 2004 survey that also showed only nine states test personal finance knowledge. These numbers are beginning to change as the state of Missouri joins the fray and will require one-half unit of credit in personal finance instruction for graduation in 2010.

A 2004 national survey by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy measured 12th graders' knowledge of basic personal finance. On average, students who participated in the survey answered correctly only 52.3 percent of the questions - an "F" in most high school classrooms.

Financial illiteracy isn't a problem limited to students. Half of U.S. adults received a failing grade for their knowledge of basic economic concepts, according to the NCEE.

But there is hope in education. The National Endowment for Financial Education has confirmed that as few as 10 hours of classroom instruction can improve spending and saving habits.

Because financial literacy is fundamental to personal success and a benefit to society, American Century provides support for financial education.

In cooperation with a premier education consultant, the investment manager developed Tips for Kids and Tips for Life, curricula for use in the classroom. To date, these programs have been used by more than 3,000 educators in all 50 states. The free programs are delivered via the Internet to educators and are presented to education conferences to help users implement the programs in their schools.

American Century's efforts to improve financial literacy extend beyond the Tips for Kids and Tips for Life programs. Free educational materials and tools are available on its Web site. And the information presented in American Century founder James E. Stowers' "Yes You Can..." book series is designed to share the personal experiences and ideas that helped him become successful.

Educating today's students on basic financial principles will pay dividends in the future because they are tomorrow's social, political and economic leaders.