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Florida high school students will learn how to make the best financial decisions | Opinion – Miami Herald

Florida Gov. DeSantis signed a bill creating a personal finance curriculum for high-school students.
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Florida Gov. DeSantis signed a bill creating a personal finance curriculum for high-school students.

Florida Gov. DeSantis signed a bill creating a personal finance curriculum for high-school students.

AP

Florida’s high school students can now build the financial skills they need to thrive in the real world. On March 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1054 into law, guaranteeing that all Florida high schoolers will cross the graduation stage having completed a full semester of personal finance education.

The bill was unanimously approved by the Florida House and Senate this year. High schoolers entering in the 2023-24 school year will be the first cohort to benefit from this bill, but it’s anticipated that districts will begin increasing access to financial education immediately.

I’ve spent the past seven months advocating for SB 1054. I met with the bill sponsors, state Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera and Sen. Travis Hutson, as well as dozens of other passionate legislators in Tallahassee. I had countless Zoom calls with a broad coalition of stakeholders, including educators, district superintendents, nonprofits such as FPP Coalition, Florida Council on Economic Education and more.

These conversations made it clear that the bill-signing day would happen. There was broad consensus that personal finance education was a critical part of preparing the next generation for life beyond high school. That broad agreement played out as the bills sailed unanimously through both the Florida House and Senate.

Legislators are listening to the public on this issue. Polling data found 85% are in support of guaranteeing a personal finance course for high school students.

Florida high schoolers will no longer have to learn about money the way I did, in the “school of hard knocks.” As a first-generation college student, I took on tens of thousands of dollars in credit-card debt without any understanding of the terms and conditions, or the implications of my uninformed financial choices. At 18, I had no idea how compound interest worked — in fact, I’d never heard anyone in my family or community use that term.

High school is such an important place for this course to be taught.

After graduation, students either join the workforce or go to college. Those headed to college are making one of the biggest financial decisions they’ll make in their lifetimes, aside from a home purchase. Borrowing student loans is not a simple process.

At 18, students need to analyze financial-aid award letters, compare loan interest rates and create a long-term plan to pay for college. If they choose to live on a college campus, they’ll need to manage bank accounts and a budget. Students also will begin researching career opportunities based on their major. These are all skills that should be taught in a personal finance class.

Students who head directly into the workforce need to apply these financial skills and knowledge even sooner. They will have to compare salary and compensation benefits, the value of ongoing training/education, manage bank accounts and budget each paycheck, secure transportation and build wealth by signing up for a 401(k), opening an IRA or both.

Research shows conclusively that students who receive high quality personal finance instruction in school manage their finances better as adults, resulting in less debt, higher credit scores, greater personal income, and a better quality of life overall.

It’s no wonder why we’re seeing a wave of legislation across the country focused on increasing access to financial education. Twenty-six states have introduced bills as of early 2022. The number of states guaranteeing high schoolers a semester course in personal finance has doubled in the past two years from five to 10, with Ohio, Nebraska and Rhode Island passing legislation in 2021.

This week, Florida became the 11th.

I’m a millennial and we’re seeing today that many in my generation made uninformed decisions about money. As a result, we’re having to forgo buying homes, opening businesses, having children or investing in order to prioritize getting out of debt.

It’s about time we made a change so that future generations can participate more actively and positively in state and national economic opportunities.

Yanely Espinal is director of educational outreach for Next Gen Personal Finance, an endowment-funded nonprofit that partners with nearly 60,000 teachers (more than 1,500 in Florida) offering free personal finance curriculum and free teacher professional development training.

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Espinal

This story was originally published March 23, 2022 1:17 PM.

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