The financial-reform bill signed into law last week includes a section on dangerous mortgages, with a provision for educating the elderly, the poor, minorities, those with language barriers, and “other potentially vulnerable consumers.” Who’s not mentioned but should be? The young. Among unemployed Americans ages 18 to 29, more than a quarter are behind on mortgage payments, one 2009 study found, and this group also has soaring credit-card debt and bankruptcy rates. Spurred into action by the recession, some states are taking financial education to a place personal-finance experts have long advocated: high school.
The number of states requiring high-schoolers to take a financial-literacy course has almost doubled since 2007, to 13. In those states, September’s freshman class must learn about credit, debt, investing, and insurance. Private schools are making a similar push, says Myra McGovern of the National Association of Independent Schools. Outside the classroom, parents can turn to Camp Millionaire, a $300 weeklong economic boot camp for kids 10 to 16 in Ohio, California, and other states. YoungBiz, which offers summer camps for teens in Florida, Michigan, and elsewhere, was sold out by April—in past years the programs were about 80 percent full. And there’s no harm in starting even younger. In Denver the Young Americans Bank offers accounts at any age and business loans to kids as young as 9. At the very least, it’s worth a conversation the next time you give your kids their allowance.