TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - State Treasurer, Kimberly Yee, worked for 12 years to bring basic financial literacy into Arizona’s high schools.
Finally, on April 11, 2019 Governor Doug Ducey signed SB 1184 into law and it became reality.
Arizona already requires a basic economics semester before graduation, but this law takes it a step further.
“What will be different is that every student that sits in their basic economics semester will now have a personal finance education embedded in their curriculum,” she said.
Personal financial management is about giving students the skills to balance a checkbook, what it means to carry debt month to month on a credit card, and how to budget a paycheck.
“Money is a responsibility,” she said. “When they don’t have that concept as they are graduating high school and entering the work world, that’s a problem.”
University High School has embraced the concept, which is taught by Jim Lerch who gave up law to teach.
“Oftentimes it’s about money, but it’s also about pursuing dreams, leading a life that’s worthy, that’s worthwhile,” he said, “I think that’s more important than money.”
It’s the ability to manage the money you have that allows other life’s lessons to fall into place.
“It’s a skill that every single student coming out of here is going to need,” said Logan Ruth, a 17-year-old senior at University High. “I think it’s really, really good."
Having taken personal finance through with Lerch, he’s far ahead of most and certainly far ahead of those generations before him.
He’s had a savings account as he looks ahead to retirement.
“It’s a general savings account,” he said. “There’s a lot of options you can get into.”
But he also has a Vanguard investment account.
“When you start young you can go into those riskier investment,” he said.
Lerch uses an example of students who buy a $5 cup of Starbucks coffee every day and how much it would add up in 40 to 50 years if invested instead. (Lots.)
“It really gets their attention,” he said.
Yee has a concern about millenials more than other generations right now.
One in eight, she says, has debt in collection.
College debt has soared from $1.5 trillion to $1.6 trillion in a year.
“It’s going in the wrong direction,” she said.
But she adds financial troubles are not confined to the young.
“It’s all spectrums, not just millenials,” she said. “We have individuals in all age categories that struggle because they didn’t have the proper understanding.”