According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest, single-venue financial literacy lesson was conducted in an arena with 5,964 students. While the effort of the organizers is appreciated; to effect meaningful change in financial knowledge and behavior, the financial literacy community has put a lot of its faith in standards-based classroom education, conducted over weeks and even whole semesters, by our nation’s skilled and dedicated teachers.

Powerful possibility

Two hundred eighty-two teachers recently polled from 45 states and two other countries reported that, collectively, they would teach 41,077 students in a single year and most will go on to teach for years to come.

"...students who have taken a class in personal finance are more likely to engage in financially responsible behaviors..."

Recognizing that this small sample is just the tip of the educator iceberg, so to speak, it’s nevertheless a clear indication of the potential reach of financial education in the classroom.

Beyond just scope, however, is effectiveness. Research sponsored by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found “notable improvements in credit outcomes for young adults who take personal finance courses in high school.”

Early indications

Research conducted for Discover showed that students who have taken a class in personal finance are more likely to engage in financially responsible behaviors, such as saving, budgeting and investing. And experts such as Annamaria Lusardi, Ph.D., Denit Trust Chair of Economics and Accountancy at the George Washington University School of Business, not only value financial education for students but also recognize that just-in-time financial education is often too late.

That’s not to say that classroom education should supplant other financial education and information for students—including parental guidance, extracurricular programs, experiences and simulations, opportunities to earn money and more. Why not “all of the above?”