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Preparing for the common wealth

Published 8:05pm Saturday, July 20, 2013

Virginia chose wisely when it decided several years back to become one of a handful of states to mandate a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement for public high school students.

High-schoolers already took economics courses, but understanding macroeconomics isn’t the same as getting how to write a check, learning how credit scores work and discovering the wonder of compounding interest on savings — or the horror of compounding interest on debt.

With unemployment for young people — even those holding college degrees — near its all-time high, college tuition rising, the recession still taking its toll on parents’ savings and credit card companies still unabashedly marketing to young people who are inexperienced with money, the need for high school graduates to have a solid understanding of real-world personal finance when they walk across the stage is greater than ever before.

What’s worse, many of today’s students have parents who either are just as clueless about money or haven’t talked to their kids about money. Some parents may even unwittingly be setting bad examples and sending poor messages about money management.

There are some things that many argue, rightly, ought to be taught in the family — values, morals and manners, for instance. But while families should teach their children about the value they should place on money, it is proper for schools to teach the essentials of finance so students are not entering their newfound financial freedom completely blind.

Recent high school graduates are in a precarious position. In addition to all the other things changing in their lives, they are also usually getting their first job (and therefore first steady income), juggling their first financial tools, like bank accounts and debit cards, and taking on new debt, such as student loans, all at the same time.

Failing to properly prepare them for the onslaught of new responsibility these things bring is setting them up for financial disaster. Almost nothing could ruin their young lives more quickly.

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