Personal finance numbers troubling

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2008

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Barnake pointed out some disturbing news Wednesday when he released the results of a new survey that indicated the financial literacy of teenagers and young adults is declining nationally.

But that’s not the worst of it.

In Ohio, Treasurer Richard Cordray indicated the numbers are declining at a more rapid pace.

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“These results are disappointing but not surprising. For too long, we all have been left to learn how to handle our personal finances through the difficult process of trial-and-error, but our financial world of today is far more complex than it was even several years ago,” Cordray said. “Problems which used to present just a little bit of financial trouble can now have much farther-reaching, longer-lasting, and more serious implications. This is why more personal financial education is needed.”

The statistics are staggering. According to the survey, conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the average score nationally was a failing 48.3 percent. That number is down more than 4 percent from the 2006 survey.

In Ohio, students scored a paltry 45.6 percent, down from 48.4 percent two years ago.

The good news is Cordray has been working with members of the Ohio House and Senate finance committees to address the issue. They announced this week legislation to create the SaveNOW program, which ties financial education to savings accounts that allow Ohioans to earn above-market interest rates for up to a year.

The bigger point is that it is a good step for government and education to recognize the need for students to be knowledgeable in this area and the dangers that exist if they are not.

And there should be an understanding in education that the ability to understand personal finance should be among the most important tools that students learn from educators.