From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser
For Immediate Release
April 12, 2002
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124
Money Matters: Financial Fitness for Life Begins in Public Schools
By Senator Troy Fraser
No surprise here, but most people could always use a little extra money. Despite the relatively healthy economy in recent years, many Texas families live pay check to pay check -- not the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Throw in an unexpected illness or job layoff, and the financial situation gets even bleaker.
To give you a better idea of the magnitude of the problem, consider this:
- 96% of all Americans will retire financially dependent on the government, their family members or charity.
- More than 40% of families in the United States spend more than they earn.
- In 1999, the national consumer debt reached an all-time high of more than $1 trillion and credit card debt was approximately $565 billion.
- The average American household has 10 credit cards with a total balance of $4,000.
Poor financial habits are not just an "adult issue," according to statistics released by the Consumer Credit Commissioner.
- The average teenager spends $4,368 a year.
- 20% of American teenagers carry four or more credit cards.
- The average credit card balance for undergraduate college students is $2,226.
The reason for our increasing personal debt is simple: a lack of education about money management and basic financial terms. Research shows that more than two-thirds of high school students are financially illiterate.
A recent report by the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) states that less than half of the high school students in America understand the concepts of profit, inflation, and the federal deficit. That shortcoming in personal finance education has lead to problems related to money, credit and jobs for many Americans.
So it made sense to me when NCEE recently teamed up with Bank of America to launch a comprehensive education program to promote financial literacy for students in kindergarten to senior high school.
Bank of America provided $3.2 million to NCEE for program development and distribution along with $100,000 to the Texas Council for Economic Education (TCEE) to implement the personal financial literacy program with public and private school teachers in the state. NCEE's program, "Financial Fitness for Life," is even more important as the economy becomes increasingly global. The program has an innovative curriculum that helps English and Spanish-speaking students become skilled consumers, savers and investors by teaching them basic finance skills, and it encourages parental involvement in the learning process.
NCEE's project gives students the confidence and information needed to be financially savvy through high-quality textbooks, teacher and parent guides, an interactive CD-ROM and a companion Web site at: www.financialfitnessforlife.org. The program also includes a free "train the trainer" workshop to help teachers and parents learn how to educate children about the free enterprise system in the United States.
"Financial Fitness for Life" has age-appropriate materials for students. Kindergarten students can learn how to mange money by simple family activities such as grocery shopping. Fourth graders can learn how to pay monthly bills. A seventh grader is able to help select the new family car through a simple cost-benefit analysis and high school seniors will be more prepared for the real world after lessons on basic economic and financial concepts.
The NCEE program is successful because it meets state standards in economics, language arts, math and personal finance and in field-testing has dramatically increased financial literacy among students.
For more information about the Financial Fitness for Life program, please visit the Web site at: www.financialfitnessforlife.org.
State Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, represents a 21-county district that includes the Highland Lakes region.