As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend our lives, Americans are facing issues they couldn’t have imagined even months ago. What started as a health threat quickly morphed into something much bigger, not just impacting our physical well-being but also wreaking havoc on our financial health as well.
Tragically, those who were most vulnerable to begin with have been hit the hardest. Many in marginalized communities who were struggling before the pandemic are now bearing the brunt of the pain. And as our nation reckons with questions of social injustice, it’s clear that too many Americans have been left out and let down.
Our country’s lack of financial literacy has contributed to this crisis—and now, as so many Americans face unprecedented financial stress, we must make financial literacy a national priority.
Increasingly, Americans agree. In fact, two-thirds of Americans believe that financial education should be a high school graduation requirement. When our survey respondents reflect on their own lives, the majority wish that they had been better about saving, goal setting, and investing.
Looking beyond themselves, they overwhelmingly (89%) believe that a lack of financial education contributes to bigger social issues in America, including poverty, lack of job opportunities, and wealth inequality. When asked what they would teach future generations, the majority would still prioritize teaching personal finance basics, ranking responsible money management as the most important life skill for kids today to learn.
At the same time, there’s a common misconception that financial literacy is only for kids. And while it’s ideal to start educating our youth about money at an early age, the truth is that the learning can’t stop there. All of us, regardless of our age, race, ethnic background, gender, or educational level, need to know how to effectively manage our money. It’s part of being an independent and secure adult—whether you’re 21 and just starting out on your own, 30 and starting a family, or 65 and looking forward to retirement.
The need is especially great for women and minorities, who continue to face unique challenges at home and in the workplace. For the most vulnerable segments of our society, financial literacy can be a life-changer—impacting everything from getting a college education, to supporting a family, to following a chosen career, to starting a business. At the macro level,