Student loans

Money-conscious teens are choosing to save over cellphones

Teenagers who completed a personal finance course in high school would rather put $500 in the bank than buy a smartphone.

You read correctly. With a background in personal finance under their belt, college students are three times more likely to choose saving money over buying a cellphone. In the age of texting, Snapchat, and Instagram, that’s kind of a miracle.

Last year, our team surveyed over 76,000 high school students across the country to find out how teens think and feel about money. Here’s what we found out about high school students who took a personal finance course before graduation:

They are confident about managing their money: Students report feeling confident when it comes to budgeting (95%), saving money (94%) and investing (87 %).

They can make more money than you think: nearly two-thirds said they work and earn an average of $3,000 a year.

They have an understanding of college loan repayment

They think about ways other than student loans to pay for their education: students said their main sources of college funding were scholarships (69%), help from parents (53%) and personal funding/themselves (51%).

They understand the pitfalls of student loans: 94% of them know how student loans work (i.e. they know they have to pay them back, with interest).

So what about students who haven’t taken a personal finance course? The study found they were twice as likely to say they didn’t understand how student loans work. Can you imagine signing up for decades of interest payments before you were even old enough to rent a car?

Maybe you can.

Maybe you did.

That’s what I want to see changed.

The role of teachers and parents

Teachers are empowered to impart financial wisdom

Today’s teachers have the power to help students start life one step ahead. Our educators have an important job preparing high school students for the future. Whether kids are going to college or entering the workforce earlier, they all need to learn how to manage their money wisely.

Currently, very few states require students to take a stand-alone personal finance course before graduation. But why wait for state legislators to craft new requirements? Change starts with volunteer educators who are ready to make an impact and empower a generation to win with money.

Parents are also an important part of the equation. They can get involved by writing to state legislators and encouraging them to implement or expand personal finance requirements in their states. Parents can also make it a point to teach financial skills at home, where lifelong learning truly begins.

Let’s teach our students how to succeed academically and financially. If they can see the wisdom of choosing savings over smartphones as a teenager, imagine all the smart financial decisions they’ll be able to make as adults!

After winning $500,000 in scholarships and earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from her dream school, Kristina Ellis decided to help students create their own plan to get a debt-free education. She is the bestselling author of Confessions of a Scholar and How to Get a Degree Without Debt.