WASHINGTON The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is recommending that policymakers implement a nationwide financial education program into grade school as well as standardized tests.
Upon issuing a white paper Tuesday, CFPB Director Richard Cordray called the current process "utterly unacceptable" in which consumers mostly learn how to manage their finances by trial-and-error.
"We must be deliberate about pursuing financial education in our schools," said Cordray said in prepared remarks at a conference on Investing in Our Future. "Failing to do so is to condemn boys and girls to make the same mistakes others have made before them by enrolling them in the 'school of hard knocks,' which we all know is no school at all."
The CFPB is asking for "integrated curricula" on finance in schools, starting with kindergarten and leading up to more personal finance training in high school, including a state requirement for a stand-alone financial education course to graduate. The paper also recommends putting financial management questions in standardized tests.
"I believe it is extremely important to require young people to receive further instruction in personal finance education during high school, when they are becoming conscious of the reality that they are getting close to going out on their own to make their own way in the world," Cordray said. "When young people do not have the skills to make effective financial decisions, they can incur unnecessary debt, miss opportunities to save money, and develop a poor credit history."
The white paper cites a 2011 poll stating that roughly $211 billion was spent annually by children and youth. Young people also tend to be unbanked or underbanked at a higher rate than adults, the report said.
Cordray is also pressing for the programs to include some form of "practical experience" such as banking simulation or computer gaming on financial education. The white paper also recommended training and incentives for teachers as well as parents.
"An overwhelming majority of K-12 teachers say that personal finance should be taught in school, yet only one out of five teachers believes that they are adequately prepared to teach personal finance," Cordray said. "We want to ensure that teachers have the support they need. We want them to have access to training and incentives to take part, such as continuing education credits or need-based travel stipends."