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Not enough kids understand money. (And not enough adults, either, for that matter.)

It’s understandable why young people don’t grasp the tenets of personal finance. So much of what children learn begins at home, and money just isn’t something a lot of families want to talk about. 

If Mom and Dad are having money troubles, they don’t want Sally and Junior to carry the weight and worry that belongs to their parents.

If Mom and Dad are soaring in the upper socioeconomic echelons, then they might not want their kids to feel too entitled. You can unfairly bolster a child’s financial self-esteem just as easily as you can burden it. 

For whatever reason that you’re avoiding money talks, whether it’s sparing your child the burden of your financial hardships or playing coy about the blessing of your good financial fortune, someone still needs to teach them about money sooner rather than later. So if not you, then who?

Enter: Financial literacy classes for kids. From summer camps to in-school classes, these programs have sprung up in the past 10 to 15 years to give young people the 411 about money.

But last month on NPR’s Your Money and Your Life series, Gabrielle Emanuel suggested that financial education isn’t necessarily effective as advertised, saying: 

“…these classes don’t necessarily lead to better financial decisions. There’s no clear link between taking personal finance classes and saving more, paying off debts or raising your credit score.”

One of the organizations highlighted in the NPR story was Summer Youth Employment Program, a Washington, D.C.-based hub that connects 13,500 young adults with summer jobs at places like CVS and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

One young man who was interviewed by NPR says he credits the Summer Youth Employment Program for sitting him down to talk about getting a bank account. But two years after completing the curriculum, the same young man is described as still “figuring out exactly how to budget and set financial goals.”

Aren’t budgeting and achieving financial goals, more than anything, the essential part of personal finance management? Yet this is something that many of us struggle with at all ages. 

A headline last week in The Atlantic declared: “Why Financial Literacy Will Not Save America’s Finances” The crux of the story asserts that now have a lot more responsibility for managing our money, so everyone needs to know the ABCs of finance.

But many people, if not most of people, never learn our Money ABCs. Still, is a solid financial education the key to enabling all Americans to succeed in fast changing global economy? 

Maybe. But possibly not.

When it comes to mastering money, rote financial literacy must accompany tenacious financial ability. Budgeting, setting goals and meeting those goals (thereby not running out of money in retirement or not spiraling into financial ruin after an unexpected medical bill or employment layoff)—these are the true hallmarks of an effective financial education. 

Sources: 

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/05/financial-literacy/480807/

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/04/13/473561841/not-all-financial-education-is-effective-here-are-4-ideas-that-work