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This Week In Your Wallet: The Kids Are Alright

Jean Chatzky  |  April 30, 2019

I’ve got good news — there’s growing interest in teaching much-needed financial literacy skills to high school students. And I’ve got bad news — the path to get us to this point has been paved with mounds student debt.  In 2017, the average amount of student debt stood at $29,000, and we have about a million borrowers defaulting on their student loans every year. In other words, we’re near a breaking point, but I’m encouraged by the movement afoot that aims to change it.

Today, 17 states require high schoolers to complete courses in personal finance, and new laws are trickling onto the books. Both Iowa and Kentucky joined the chorus in recent months, and will soon require that students take certain financial literacy courses or programs in order to graduate. In Florida and Iowa, new legislation seeks to require that high schoolers take courses that would educate them on the basics of money management, writes  Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Exciting, yes. Overdue, yes. Especially when you consider that one in five American high school students lacks even the most basic financial skills.

If your state isn’t on the list of those affecting change, there’s still plenty you can do. You can start by checking the website for the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, at, to see what type of instruction may be offered in your area, and to get suggestions for ways that you can encourage the adoption of new courses. And, perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to wait for your child’s school — you can start building those foundations right in your own living room. Fast Lane, a division of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, offers free resources for parents, including games, ice breakers, and more.

Prom Problems

Do you remember your prom? Better yet, do you remember how much you spent on it? According to Visa, the tally is now about $1,000 per child, which can be an eye-popping figure, until you consider all that goes into that — hair styling, makeup, manicures and pedicures, a dress or tux, alterations for said dress or tux, a limo, hotel rooms for the night, corsages, the actual tickets to the prom itself, dinner out before or after the prom, professional photographers, and of course, the after-party. In other words, all those “memories” your kids are making are going to come at a cost.  And that’s not even including what your child might spend on often- elaborate “prom-posals,” where students think of creative ways to ask their dates to attend the gala. (There’s even a show devoted to the act on MTV, and a number in the new musical The Prom).

So what’s a cost-conscious parent to do? Start by giving your child a budget, and encouraging them to get creative. Thrift and consignment stores can be great places to find formal clothing, and there’s always Rent The Runway, where rental dresses can be had much more affordably than bought ones. Before things get out of hand, you might also want to approach parents of the kids your child will likely be celebrating with that evening. If you brainstorm together and make bookings early, you might be able to snag some serious bargains on transportation, food, or accommodation for the evening… Just don’t leave your kid out of the conversation — prom can be an excellent real-life budgeting exercise for them.

Women Rocking It In All Professions

When you think of construction workers, truck drivers, and police officers, what type of face comes to mind? For many of us, it might be one with stubble and an adam’s apple, but we’d be wise to rethink those sexist notions, according to a story from Sarah Chaney and Eric Morath in the Wall Street Journal. In 2018, 43% more women were working as truck drivers, delivery people and warehouse workers than in 2000. The number of women working as security guards and police officers rose 40% during that same period, while construction jobs saw female employees increase by 23%. Why? Other than the fact that women can damn well do anything they want for a living, the pool of men willing to take many of these jobs is shrinking (thanks to more Americans pursuing college degrees) so companies have had to double down on recruiting women. Also, in 2019 — although we still have a long way to go to tackle the gender wage gap — there are far far fewer preconceived notions around what a “man’s job” and a “woman’s job” should look like. In other words, the future is female, no matter the industry.

Kids & Money

How old were your kids when you first talked to them about money? Is there such a thing as too early? At HerMoney, we’d argue no way — you just have to do it the right way. As adults, we know the financial world can certainly be a complicated one, and when we think about money management, our minds may immediately drift to 401(k)s and mortgages — in-depth topics that are distinctly not for kids. But thankfully, we don’t have to start there to teach our children about money. We just have to open the door to the topic — kids simply need to understand the basics of spending, saving, and giving back. Check out our roundup of some of the best ways you can teach your kids about money management, using real life scenarios.

Closing The Savings Gap

You may have already heard of the new podcast I cooked up with my friends at AARP,  Closing The Savings Gap. New episodes are dropping now, every Wednesday through May 8, all of which profile a real woman tackling — and solving, with the help of a financial planner — a real financial roadblock that’s holding her back from saving the way she wants for retirement. With so many of us tackling financial problems that keep us awake at night, don’t be surprised if some of their stories sound familiar. According to the new EBRI retirement confidence survey for 2019, 6 out of 10 workers say their level of debt is a problem as they move toward retirement, and 8 out of 10 workers are planning to work during retirement. The good news is that confidence is up — 82% of retirees feel they’ll have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement, up from 75% last year… So what else do you need to do to get your confidence up? We hope you’ll make time for this exciting 7-episode series, and let us know what you think.

Have a great week,


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