Young, dumb and broke

Why finance classes should be mandatory in schools

Personal finance and the stock market have never been more important in our day-to-day lives, yet most American high schools don’t offer any education on it.

According to CNBC, only 25% of American high school students are required to take a personal finance course. Only eight states fully require the course, and only seven are starting to require it in certain schools.

In June of 2022, Michigan recently mandated that personal finance classes be taught in high schools.

When I was in high school, managing my finances was one of the scariest things I worried about having to take on in college, so I signed up for a personal finance elective class. Even back then I was very confused as to why it wasn’t a core class. Thinking about this, I decided to take the class to get a head start on one of the biggest pitfalls I heard college students struggled with.

What I got was less of a crash course on how to manage my finances and more of a series of Dave Ramsey videos and lectures about how to browse Zillow. The only thing that I really picked up from the class was using spreadsheets to make a budget, but that’s a pretty simple system that my mom drilled into my head before I took the class.

Before, I was under the impression that it was a bad idea to have a credit card at all until I got to college, but then I started reading books and listening to podcasts about finance and the stock market, and I realized that it’s actually a good idea to have a credit card or two to boost your credit score, as long as you can pay it off every period.

I’m going over all of this information about this class from my high school because I really think it’s sad that my personal finance class wasn’t really what I thought it would be, and that it wasn’t even a core class. Then, I read that article from CNBC and realized that I was actually lucky to have the class at all.

It’s especially disappointing that finance and the stock market aren’t considered essential in the classroom since, according to another CNBC article, the brokerage firm Schwab says that almost a fifth of their total investors only joined during the pandemic, when it became a hobby for a significant amount of people to invest in the stock market.

Companies like Webull, Public and, most notably, Robinhood took advantage of these newfound spenders, with interest in the market especially rising around the time of the GameStop short squeeze in early 2021.

Robinhood halted the purchasing of GameStop shares following a massive trend of “short-squeezing,” which led to hedge funds and short sellers bleeding financially.

I’m sure that I am not the only one who believes that high school students should be taught how to responsibly invest so that another GameStop situation can’t happen again, but this can only happen if more schools prioritize teaching students about personal finance. However, that probably won’t happen for a while.

So, I urge any other students reading this to please go find some books, podcasts and even people to follow on Twitter so you can at least follow the market and the economy in general. Learn basic finance because pretty much everything I know came from research I had to do outside of school.