I’ve been taking a personal financial literacy class this year as a part of gifted enrichment at Capital High School, and frankly, I’ve learned so much that I would have never figured out on my own. The class has already taught me valuable lessons about letting my money work for me and how to build wealth.

The class I’m taking includes following the personal finance program from Dave Ramsey, a personal finance personality who has made a fortune sharing his knowledge on building wealth. He shares tips and helps build the foundational knowledge children, teens and adults need in order to navigate money matters. As for specific highlights, I’ve learned about the corruption and popularization of credit in the United States, how to check my credit score and the “snowball method” for getting out of debt as quickly as possible.

However, the main problem I see is that personal financial literacy classes are only an option at my school. They should be a requirement. I only came to find this type of education when my own gifted enrichment teacher incorporated it into class.

New Mexico is set to add financial literacy components to required social studies classes, but a quick brush up on credit scores won’t get into all of the required knowledge to function with money as an adult. The Associated Press reported the New Mexico Public Education Department adopted financial literacy in the new social studies standards as a result of a letter-writing campaign, with other states also hopping on the finance-classes bandwagon.

There are a few arguments against implementing personal finance education in schools, mainly that students will struggle to engage in the subject or not want to learn about a boring subject like finance. But many students are already struggling to engage in existing classes, which is a different problem entirely. Teachers and volunteers like my gifted enrichment teacher have worked to make the addition of financial literacy as interesting for students as possible to avoid disengagement. My teacher specifically creates group activities with worksheets and encourages us to be active in The Stock Market Game, an online simulation of global capital markets.

Data from The Council for Economic Education examining the efficacy of personal finance classes in Georgia, Idaho and Texas showed mandated personal finance education was associated with a drop in severe delinquency among students of 2 percent to 6 percent. Credit scores increased 2 percent to 5 percent. Regardless of engagement, the subject maintains its importance in education so that the materials required to succeed are provided whether students choose to utilize them or not.

Integrating personal financial literacy classes goes beyond just teaching students valuable life skills.

For New Mexicans, it could be extremely important to aid the break from systemic poverty. Local nonprofit Think New Mexico was concerned by the October 2021 social studies standards’ lack of financial education. And, so, with the help of 263 volunteer commenters, it created its own set of standards for additional focus on personal financial literacy.

Financial literacy may end up being a vital skill for first-generation, college-bound students in New Mexico. Without parents who are well-versed in finances, breaking free of cyclical poverty can seem insurmountable. Ramsey’s program and others like it can help make financial know-how a skill for generations of New Mexicans to come. If students are taking financial literacy classes, they may go home and talk with their parents about the skills they’ve learned.

Introducing financial literacy standards as a requirement to New Mexico’s schools — high schools in particular — is going to help bridge the state’s financial gap and could prevent increasing debt and poverty. My experience in class has taught me financial skills even my mother doesn’t have. I’ve learned how to take responsibility with money, better avoid debt and budget my income.

The state’s choice to introduce personal financial literacy standards to the school systems is a comparatively small step, but it is certainly moving in the right direction to helping high school students merge into adulthood skillfully.

Lotte Carter is a junior at Capital High School. Contact them at charbcarter@gmail.com

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