Virginia: a Bastion of Financial Literacy

Virginia is the third most financially literate state in the country, according to a new Wallethub survey that combines metrics of personal financial behavior and public policy indicators. New Hampshire and Utah rank No. 1 and No. 2, while Arkansas and Mississippi rank at the bottom.

“Financial literacy ultimately comes down to familiarity with key themes and concepts, the ability to think critically, good judgment and self-restraint,” writes Senior Writer John Kiernan.

The Old Dominion ranked 1st in the country for high school literacy, reflecting its low drop-out rate and its status as one of only four states in the country to require a stand-alone course in personal finance as a graduation requirement. Virginians also were more responsible on average in the handling of their personal finances, as measured by indicators such as the percentage of households that spent less money than they earned and the percentage that maintained rainy day funds.

I can vouch for the value of the state’s required course on personal finance. My 15-year-old son, enrolled in 10th grade, is taking the course this year. He is learning about everything from credit cards and mortgages to check accounts and 1066 federal income tax forms. I’ve maintained a savings account for him for years, which he long regarded suspiciously as a black hole that sucked up the money he received as Christmas and birthday gifts. But after learning about checking accounts, he was quite excited this year to go down to the bank with his Christmas loot, fill out the deposit slip and put the money into his savings account. He zones out when his mother and I try to teach him anything — but making it part of the school curriculum seems to confer legitimacy.

I’d classify the Economics & Personal Finance class as one of the more useful things that public schools teach in Virginia. I have no idea whether school learning actually changes peoples’ behavior — I’m a bit skeptical in that regard — but it can’t hurt. Everyone benefits when people assume responsibility for their own financial welfare and avoid making stupid and costly financial decisions.


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2 responses to “Virginia: a Bastion of Financial Literacy”

  1. sorry no one has commented on this and enjoyed hearing Jim B’s personal experience with his son.

    my comments:

    1. we might have a lower dropout rate in comparison but we still have 15-20% who either fail to graduate or get symbolic diplomas.

    2. no amount of financial literacy training in the schools is going to make
    up for a lack of ability to read and write and use math.

    3. Once we get past the idea that we need many more kids mastering the core academics – I totally support the financial literacy curricula AND I would add one – business and entrepreneurship. Virtually all kids who graduate are clueless as to think in terms of them getting into business as opposed to looking for a job working for someone else. The only kids who get that kind of education are the kids of businessmen and businesswomen who pass that knowledge – that culture onto their own kids.

    we need more kids growing up thinking about what it takes to see and understand entrepreneurial opportunities – and far less kids thinking about getting a “good” job working for someone else or worse how to get entitlements.

    Good post JimB!

  2. HardHatMommy Avatar

    I absolutely agree, the Personal Finance requirement is a step in the right direction. I wish it was receiving more media attention. In FCPS, the students get a primer on personal finance in 8th grade that culminates in a trip to Junior Achievement’s Finance Park. They draw a fictional scenario and have to budget accordingly, for example, single mom, 2 kids, $50,000 salary. It’s a meaningful program that connects personal finance to these kids’ lives.

    Larry G, several high schools in Northern Virginia are offering the Entrepreneurship Course as an elective in addition to Marketing and Business classes. Math can be woven through all of those courses. In fact, applying math in those business subjects can create the connections students need to help them when they are in their algebra and calculus class. That’s at least a step in the right direction. Those business electives have a wide scope of benefits.

    It’s reading I worry about. Students learn to read or decode, but they don’t necessarily learn how to comprehend. The strategy I use to read Jim’s blog post is different from the strategy I use to read a science textbook or a novel or a business book. Every teacher should teach reading. You read a math book in a certain way. There are hints and tricks to the process that a math teacher could convey. Making connections to what we read and comprehending is what makes for a good reader. I know a lot of business people who struggle reading complex texts. Nobody every taught them the art of making predictions before you read, noticing the print conventions that give us hints, writing questions in the margin … I don’t know how I learned those practices but I know they help me comprehend. Reading shouldn’t be left just to the English and language arts teachers. Of course I know the reality is that nobody is teaching texts anymore. It’s youtube clips and technology, not texts. How do we infuse reading throughout all content areas? How does good old fashioned reading compete with technology?

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