By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoman
I’m always writing about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education on the future careers and aspirations of Oklahoma’s young people as I think we need more STEM to continue to diversify and build our economy of the future. There’s another area of education that needs additional focus, and that’s financial literacy.
One in five U.S. teens lack basic financial literacy skills. This result was reported in the acclaimed triennial international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey that evaluates education systems worldwide.
A T. Rowe Price study of more than a thousand parents of 8 to 14 year olds and their children reported that 48 percent of those children spend their money as soon as they get it. The study found that bad and good money habits get passed down from parent to child, but two-thirds of parents surveyed expressed some reluctance to discuss money matters (especially if they have accumulated credit card debt).
Financial literacy (or the lack thereof) has a huge impact. Students without savings are less likely to go to college, and if they do, they’ll likely be saddled with debt for years after. More than 44 million Americans shoulder student loan debt. The average student loan debt for the class of 2017 graduates was $39,400.
We all have a vested interest in improving the financial literacy of our young people — it’s a matter of education in our schools and in our homes.
In Oklahoma, the Personal Financial Literacy PASSPORT initiative sets comprehensive standards and requires that students take instruction and demonstrate financial literacy as a graduation requirement. The state provides instructor training and instruction materials that cover topics from earning an income, saving and paying rent, to the realities of credit card debt and the consequences of gambling.
A number of schools throughout the state, as well as the University of Oklahoma, are using the OU K20 Mind Your Own Budget (MYOB) online financial literacy game.
At OU, it is part of a two-credit-hour personal finance course entitled The 9 Things Every College Student Should Know About Money, a national award-winning class created and taught by Brad Burnett, OU vice president for enrollment and student financial services.
“K20 contacted Brad to oversee the content of the game, and his team suggested that it meet all the Oklahoma state standards, said Judi Voeller, Associate Director of Grants, Research, and Special Projects at OU. “MYOB works because it mirrors real life experiences and helps students be prepared for the real world.”
K20’s MYOB is available free of charge to any classroom in Oklahoma. Upon completion of the game, student certification counts toward the state mandate for financial literacy.
OU’s course also includes the Invest Ed STARS Program, adapted for college students. This is another great online, free Oklahoma resource for teaching financial literacy from the Oklahoma Securities Commission and Oklahoma Department of Securities. STARS (Students Tracking and Researching the Stock Market) teaches students about stocks, mutual funds and how the stock market works.
Financial literacy isn’t child’s play, but Oklahoma will be stronger if all our young people get in the game.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.