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EDITORIAL: Helping Young Adults Learn Money Management

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by Nat Frothingham

Help appears to be on the way for schoolchildren, college students and young adults struggling to manage their money.

During the last session of the Vermont Legislature a bill was passed in both House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Shumlin to establish a Vermont Financial Literacy Commission.

“Why yet another commission?” one might ask.

Well, it appears that high school and college students and young adults are struggling to manage their money at a time when intelligent money management could well be the difference between life success or failure.

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As part of an introduction to the bill that establishes the new commission, we learn the following:

  • That according to a Schwab survey “…parents are nearly as uncomfortable talking to their children about money as they are discussing sex”
  • That only 10 percent of Vermont high schools have a financial literacy graduation requirement
  • That many Vermont college students leave college for “financial reasons”
  • That 63 percent of Vermont four-year college students that graduated in 2012 had a student loan debt that averaged $28,299
  • That Vermonters have an average credit card debt of $9,667

In short, when high school and college students graduate they are under- or ill-equipped to take control of their financial lives. They don’t know how credit works. They don’t know how to budget or how to save.

Little wonder that many of this generation’s young adults have higher unemployment rates than their parents’ generation and owe more money. And they are seldom either saving for a “rainy day” or saving for their retirement years.

It’s easy to establish a commission. It’s less easy to equip a generation with the skills of careful and intelligent money management. And this at a time when college tuitions have gone through the roof, when taxes and costs are high and when some politicians are crying out against “income inequality.”