The holiday season can be festive and exciting, but it can also bring stress. The busyness alone can be overwhelming, and gift shopping and other holiday expenses can induce stress, too.
The added pressure of the holiday season only exacerbates the financial strain that many families face year-round.
The current situation is anything but merry and bright. According to Experian, the average American consumer’s debt balance is more than $92,000; total consumer debt in the nation is approaching $15 trillion. Bankrate released a survey that showed only 39% of Americans could pay a $1,000 emergency expense using their savings. A recent report by the Federal Reserve revealed that a quarter of non-retired adults in the country have nothing saved for retirement.
These statistics are all indicative of a deep need for better financial management among many American families. Here in Michigan, we can help chart a new course and empower people to avoid the pitfalls of personal finance. We can do so by providing people the tools and know-how to manage their resources wisely.
That is why the Michigan House of Representatives recently approved my bipartisan plan to help prevent this sad state of financial affairs from dominating future generations. House Bill 5190 will address financial unpreparedness at its source by teaching the necessary knowledge and skills to young people before they reach adulthood.
Traditional academic subjects like math, science, history and English endow students with a general foundation of knowledge for future studies or work. But strangely absent from our core curriculum is one course with a direct, practical application for everyone — personal finance students already take a personal finance course, but leaving this indispensable subject as optional hardly takes the problem of financial failure seriously. And many students who would choose to take a personal finance class go to schools that do not offer that option..
My legislation would require a personal finance class for public school graduation. The required course in the Michigan Merit Curriculum will include a financial literacy component using criteria already outlined in state law. These criteria provide for a comprehensive overview of the most essential elements of personal finance, including foundational principles of earning, spending, saving, borrowing and investing.
Not too long after graduation, most will find themselves in brand new financial situations. Many will further their studies at college or trade school, taking on significant expenses and possibly debt. Others will start a full-time job. Some will move out on their own.
High school graduates who fulfill the proposed personal finance requirement would be able to take what they learn and use it in their daily lives — for the rest of their lives. They would be prepared to make their first financial decisions they encounter as young adults.
Financial preparedness cannot solve every financial challenge, and some circumstances are entirely outside human control. But education and proactive planning go a long way toward assuring good financial health.
A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives has recognized the need for personal financial education in our schools. I hope the state Senate and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will join this bipartisan effort and take substantive action to prepare Michigan students for their financial futures. For those who take the principles they learn to heart, better financial management may help alleviate some of the stress of future holiday seasons.
Diana Farrington (R-Utica) represents Michigan’s 30th House District. She chairs the House Committee on Financial Services.