SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- When it comes to financial literacy, Americans are getting failing grades and it's not much better for teenagers.In a survey of high school students last year, the average score on a financial literacy test was 69%, a D+.
That's what makes the teens in alocal high school program so different. The academy at Montgomery Blair High School, which focuses on financial literacy, is giving studuentsthe financial know-how they will need to succeed in life.Student Annie Pietanza even won a national investing competition with her team,based on the lessons she learned in the program. "We looked at the statistics like P over E, dividend, growth rate," to develop a winning portfolio of stocks, says Pietanza. The first place finish came with a $2,500 check for the high school.
The academy is the brainchild of lead teacher Kevin Murley, who thinks these are vital life lessons. "The basics give them a concept for what to look for when they actually start making investment choices and saving," says Murley. He told his students during one class, "if you can understand and read these financial statements, you can actually make that a part of how you invest, how you manage your own personal financal life, going forward."
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot agrees. "I always tell people, if you are not in control of you finances, you can't have a happy, productive life," stated Franchot.
Six counties in Maryland have a financial literacy graduation requirement but efforts to make it a requirement statewide have failed so far, even with the support of strong advocates such as Franchot."We do a disservice to out kids inMontgomery andPrince George'sby not forcing them to take a financial literacy course, just when they are graduating. That's when they need it."
He would require a stand-alone,six-credit course. "I consider financial literacy to be the Number 1, important course, taught to young people in schools, and when we don't teach it to them, we're not really doing our jobs," says Franchot.
Learning these financial concepts early is even changing what some of these teens are planning for their futures.
"The reality is I have kids in the art program -- who take one class. They have the time to take one extra class. They want to learn how finance impacts their hobby. They might want to sell their paintings. They might want to run their own little business," said Murley.