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A new study from the latest round of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) confirms–again–what the organization concluded in its last study in 2012: Our teens are not smart about money. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) concludes that 22%, or one in five, U.S. 15-year-old students continue to lack basic financial literacy skills.

This study and others like it fall into the category of confirming the obvious. We have proven there is a global financial education void time and time again. Simply banging the drum may be helpful in heightening awareness. But it does not address solutions, and solutions are what we need to be spending our time and resources searching for.

Time is money, and we are losing both as yet another class graduates with insufficient understanding of financial literacy. In the first grade, we teach kids the difference between simple and compound interest–and they grasp it. How hard can it be to introduce compound growth of savings from there?

At young ages, kids think adults are brilliant. They listen. This is when we have the best chance to seed information that will help them later on. Financial educators must start to focus attention on a window of opportunity that is fleeting: a child’s early years, as young as pre-kindergarten. This is the critical missing piece in our financial literacy battle.

Shaping money behavior is easier than changing money behavior. We know from volumes of research already conducted that “early and often” financial education works. Do we really need more research that confirms what we already know? Or might we be better served using our collective resources to act now, before next year’s graduating class starts life like this one–lacking a critical, learnable life skill?

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Written by Susan Beacham
Susan Beacham founded Money Savvy Generation in 1999 after almost two decades in private banking and investment management complemented by considerable time teaching at the elementary level.

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