JOHNSTON, Iowa -- It is a problem finance professionals, like Serve Credit Union Marketing Manager Mike Farley, are running into a lot with members. "Paying yourself first, how to save, what does it mean when you take out a loan and things like that," he said.
Iowa is one thirty-three states that still does not require high school students to take a financial literacy class to graduate. It is leaving many without a clue about handling their money until it may be too late. Farley said, "We are not just talking to people in their twenties or thirties, we are talking to people in their forties and fifties still learning some of those tools."
The Johnston Community School District recognized the problem a decade ago by offering financial literacy classes but made the class a requirement for all Juniors starting with the 17/18 school year and beyond. Johnston High School business teacher Kayla Bousum said, "Financial literacy is probably the most important thing we can teach kids. It doesn't matter if you become a doctor or you work minimum wage, you need to know how to manage your money and this class can teach them that."
Next Gen Finance Group says 1 in 6 american students graduate with a financial literacy course. Here in Johnston all students will be required to take the class. It is a trend they hope the rest of the state follows suit with. Bousum said, "I think states should be embarrassed if they are not making it a requirement because they are doing a disservice to their graduates."
For senior Jennah Johnson, who will be heading off to Winona State University in Minnesota, she believes the class is vital. "A lot people don't feel prepared going into college and they run into all these things as life goes on like I don't know how to open a credit card account. What are the rates and my options? So this class really helps," she said.
Teaching the class, Bousum sees the benefits. "A kid comes in and says can we meet after school? I have $700 that I got for my birthday and I want to invest it and I want your help in starting a Roth IRA."
Real life answers for real life problems. Johnson said, "Think of your future and look at your parents and what they have to do and all the bills they have to pay because that is going to be you someday, so paying attention now will benefit you later."
Iowa could soon become the eighteenth state to make financial literacy a requirement for graduation. A bill has recently passed through legislation and will soon be sent to Governor Kim Reynolds.