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Will Financial Literacy Finally Get A Lift?

Jean Chatzky  |  April 20, 2021

Two dozen state legislatures have bills before them regarding financial literacy education. 

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This Week In Your Wallet: Ready, Set, Whoa!

If the recent spate of headlines and prognostications on economic growth have it right, here we go. Consumers flush with stimulus cash, market gains (yes, many on paper, but they feel strangely real) and more than a year’s worth of pent-up pandemic energy are ready to spend.   And the economy is set to zoom as a result. The Wall Street Journal’s survey of economists is projecting GDP growth (that’s the rise in value of all goods and services produced) of 6.4% this year — way above the level achieved before the pandemic. 

What could hold things back? A lack of people to do all of this producing. USAToday notes that in March, a record number (42%) of small businesses surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business had job openings they couldn’t fill. As The Journal reports, hiring is expected to be problematic for a couple of big reasons. (Link behind paywall) On the employer side, there is some uncertainty about how long this flurry of economic activity will last. Businesses don’t want to staff up only to have to scale down again in short order, so they’re being careful.  

On the employee side, there are 1.9 million fewer people age 25-54 holding or looking for jobs (the so-called prime age labor force participation rate) than there were before the pandemic. Some, as I’ve written about here before, have left the workforce to cope with caregiving challenges or fear of COVID-19.  Some, still receiving supplemental unemployment benefits, have made the mental calculation that working isn’t worth it.  

But employers should also have a wide eye to what’s potentially on the horizon. At this week, we dig into why one in three women of color plan to leave their jobs within the next year.  CNBC reports on another survey that says one in four workers overall are planning to hop. It’s not all doom and gloom. Some workers have spruced up their skill sets. Others are keenly aware there’s more flexibility available in general — and if they can’t get it from their current employer, they’ll look elsewhere.  

Moms, It’s Your Time

We get it: Nothing was normal this last year. In the craziness of the pandemic, we all ended up bumping so many things that had been on our “must-do” list, back to our “to-do whenever I get time” list… Only, for moms, that time never came. But as we’re all walking a path back to a better place with our careers and social lives, it’s time to get your financial life back on track, too. To help you dust-off that to-do list and prioritize your next steps, HerMoney has teamed up with Fidelity Investments for an exclusive week-long journey (delivered straight to your inbox) with the solutions, suggestions and support you need right now. Sign up with us today for our Motherhood and Money special — or share with a mom in your life who could use a helping hand… and, let’s face it, a round of applause. 

Will Financial Literacy Finally Get A Lift?

As we went into the pandemic, high school students in 21 states were required to take a course in personal finance in order to graduate (of them, only 6 of those states require a full semester’s worth of study,  the rest ask for less). Now, you already know that I think that number is woefully insufficient, and as a reader of this newsletter, I would guess you do, too. Students who take a course in personal finance will never find themselves wondering if they will use the knowledge in real life, like they might with calculus or algebra 2. (Though, for the record, I loved both calculus and algebra 2.)   

The times may finally be changing. As Ann Carrns reports in The New York Times, two dozen state legislatures have bills before them regarding financial literacy education.  With student debt a $1.7 trillion problem, we couldn’t pass them soon enough. As this report from the National Endowment on Financial Education shows, state-mandated financial education “causes students to make better decisions about how to pay for college. It increases applications for aid, federal aid taken, and grants — all while decreasing credit card balances.”  Here’s a list of bills currently in progress (Link behind paywall) complied by Next Gen Personal Finance. Please reach out to your legislators and support them.

Recommended Reading

This week I dove deep into two magazine stories that I wanted to recommend.  The first, the cover story of the most recent AARP Bulletin, is an inside look at tech support scams from the perspective of a consumer-savvy individual (some would call a vigilante) who has made it his business to take them down. It reads like a movie. If you’re like me, you’ll start to wonder which smart Hollywood exec has optioned it for one.

The other is this New York Magazine interview with Scott Galloway, a serial entrepreneur, popular podcast host and NYU marketing professor, about the transformation of the economy.  It’s incredibly wide-ranging, covering everything from GameStop to crypto to the stimulus to income/wealth inequality. You may not agree with everything he says, but it will give you a lot to think about. 

Adieu, Adieu, To You and You and You

I grew up at the mall. The Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville, Ohio – right across the border from my town known as Wheeling, West Virginia (sorry, couldn’t resist.)  We went to the mall to hang out with friends, to kill time (seriously, the hours spent in Spencer’s alone looking at a mind-numbing array of fascinatingly tasteless junque were too many to count), to go to the movies and, oh yes, on occasion, to shop. I’m sure many of you did the same at your very own malls.  

But lately — and this precedes the pandemic by years — not so much. Today, we’d rather hang out locally or in a town that has some energy, where we can catch some air between stores. We shop when we’re there, if and when we’re not shopping online. Which is why this Washington Post report that half the country’s mall-based department stores are projected to close by 2025 is not really a surprise. Shopping mall vacancies, the story noted, have also spiked in recent months. I went to what is now my local mall, The Westchester, in White Plains, NY for maybe the second or third time during the pandemic about two weeks ago because I had an appointment at the Genius bar. As I wandered through the Nordstrom (one of two anchor department stores) the lack of merchandise was noticeable. And I wondered: Will I miss the mall when it’s gone? Will you?

Have a great week,



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