Today’s Teens May Be More Money-Wise Than You Think

Kristina Ellis
Kristina Ellis

Have you ever wondered what most teens who have taken a personal finance class in high school would do with $500? According to bestselling author Kristina Ellis, the answer might surprise you. They may just be more money-wise than you thought!

Teens who completed a personal finance class in high school would rather put $500 in the bank than buy a smartphone.

You read that right. With personal finance education under their belts, students are three times as likely to choose saving money over buying a cell phone. In an age of texting, Snapchatting and Instagramming—that’s kind of a miracle.

Our team surveyed more than 76,000 high school students from across the nation last year to learn how teens think and feel about money. Here’s what we discovered about high schoolers who completed a personal finance class before graduation:

  • They’re confident about handling their money: Students report feeling confident when it comes to budgeting (95%), saving money (94%) and investing (87%).
  • They may earn more money than you think: Almost two-thirds said they are working and earning an average of $3,000 per year.
  • They’re thinking about ways other than student loans to pay for college: Students said their top college funding sources include scholarships (69%), help from their parents (53%) and personal funding/themselves (51%).
  • They understand the pitfalls of student loans: 94% of them know how student loans work (a.k.a. they know they must pay them back—with interest).

So, what about the students who didn’t take a personal finance class? The study found they were twice as likely to say they didn’t understand how student loans work. Can you imagine signing up for decades of interest payments before you’re even old enough to rent a car? 

Maybe you can.

Maybe you did.

That’s what I want to see change.

The role of teachers and parents

Today’s teachers have the power to help students begin their lives ahead of the curve. Our educators have an important job preparing high school students for the future. Whether kids go to college or enter the workforce sooner, they all need to learn how to manage their money wisely.

Currently, very few states require students to take a standalone personal finance course before graduation. But why wait for state legislators to craft new requirements? Change starts with willing educators who are ready to impact and empower a generation to win with money.

Parents are an important part of the equation, too. They can get involved by writing state legislators, and encouraging them to implement or expand personal finance requirements in their states. Parents can also make it a point to teach money skills at home, where lifelong learning truly begins.

Let’s teach our students how to succeed academically and financially. If they can see the wisdom of choosing savings over smartphones as teens, just imagine all the wise money decisions they’ll be equipped to make as adults!

     *After winning $500K in scholarships and graduating from her dream school with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, Kristina Ellis set out to help students create their own plan to earn a debt-free education. She’s the best-selling author of Confessions of a Scholarship Winner and How to Graduate Debt-Free. She is a featured expert in the 2021 documentary Borrowed FutureHow Student Loans Are Killing the American Dream. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets, such as Fox & FriendsThe Katie Couric Show, CBN, USA Today, Reuters, Seventeen, and Money. As a Ramsey Personality, Kristina helps thousands of families nationwide navigate the complex waters of college finance and graduate debt-free. 

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