Lifting All Boats Through Financial Education

Feb 5, 2020

Today, the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) was proud to host the Council for Economic Education (CEE) as the group released its biennial Survey of the States report on financial education.  Fortunately, this year’s report shows that after years of stalled progress, more high schools across America are requiring economics and personal finance classes to graduate. Among the key findings are:

  • 21 states now require high school students to take a course in personal finance.
  • 25 states now require high school students to take a course in economics.
  • However, 5 states plus the District of Columbia still do not include personal finance in their K-12 curriculum standards.

Despite low unemployment and years of consecutive GDP growth, disparity is growing, and a lack of financial education is a big reason why. Researchers at the Wharton School found that more than one-third of financial inequality in the U.S. could be accounted for by the differences in financial literacy. CEE says that in states without course requirements, there is a 15-point gap in access to financial education between kids from lower-income versus wealthier families.

Rising economic tides lift some boats, but not all. So, while financial education is increasing, it’s time to redouble efforts to expand it—especially for students from lower-income households. Policymakers can help students achieve a lifetime of financial security by prioritizing financial education in our schools.

ACLI CEO Susan Neely and Council for Economic Education President and CEO Nan Morrison discuss the findings of the Survey of the States.

Life insurers have a big role to play, too. We have an incredible purpose–helping people build long-term financial security. We have a responsibility to be problem solvers as our nation grapples with income inequality, the financial and retirement savings gap, and financial literacy and inclusion.  

In addition to our companies, ACLI staff “walk the walk” in supporting financial education. Many of them volunteer at Junior Achievement Finance Parks in the Washington, DC, metro area. And this May, the ACLI-sponsored Capital Challenge road race will showcase the imperative of financial literacy to national policymakers. For the second consecutive year, the race will also benefit Junior Achievement.

Moving forward, we need to empower the next generation of Americans, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or economic status, to make smart decisions for their financial security. There’s no time to waste.

Susan K. Neely

Susan K. Neely is the President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), the nation’s leading trade association determined to help families live better lives by achieving financial security and certainty. As president and CEO, Neely drives public policy and advocacy on behalf of ACLI’s member companies that represent 94 percent of industry assets and serve 90 million families.