The Next Generation and Money: What We're Not Teaching Them

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Seventy-five percent of graduating high school seniors don't understand basic money management principles. How should we be investing in the next generation's future?

The best thing we can do to make young people happy, motivated, passionate, purpose-driven adults is to teach accountability and give them the tools to be successful.

A 2010 Junior Achievement/AllState Foundation Study found that 25 percent of teens were either "not very sure" or "not sure at all" about how to budget their money. Another study revealed that 75 percent of graduating seniors did not understand basic investment principles, and only 10 percent of U.S. high schools teach financial management. Other research has shown that young people under the age of 25 are among the fastest-growing group of individuals filing for bankruptcy.

Elaine King, Director of the Wealth and Well Being Institute at Gibraltar Private Bank, in Coral Gables, Florida and author of Family & Money Matters: Life Lessons for the New Generation (Kaabrah Publishing, September 2010) has spoken to thousands of families and young adults about money in the last 15 years. Says King, “When I go to high schools and talk about budgeting, saving and investing I find that a large percentage of the audience is financially uninformed. Unfortunately, most schools don’t have the budget to teach money management skills.”

And most aren’t learning the basics of finances at home, either. In a survey reported in USA Today, only 28 percent of parents said they have taught financial skills to their children. Parents typically don’t teach money management to their children because they don’t have the knowledge themselves or they want their kids to have everything they never did. “Many parents believe that their primary job is to make their children happy. But the best thing they can do to make them happy, motivated, passionate, purpose-driven adults is to teach them accountability and give them the tools to be successful,” says King.

Family dynamics are also significant in how a person deals with money. Exploring your family’s values about money is the key to understanding where your personal drive and attitudes about money originate. Says King, “Personal drive and family hugely influence whether you go to college, what kind of job or profession you’ll have, how well you’ll do at work, how you’ll handle your finances and how much money you’ll make over your lifetime.” At a workshop King conducted recently for young professionals, she asked them what role they thought their families played in their financial behavior. A woman in her early 20s said, “My parents taught me to be content with what I have, not with what I want.” Another young man said, “My parents didn’t teach me a thing. They didn’t know themselves. Now, I’m only 23 and I’m in debt and always borrowing money.”

No one is born financially competent; we must learn it. This is one of the main reasons King wrote Family & Money Matters, which explains in very plain and simple terms how to save, invest, protect and share your money. "We need to invest in the next generation's future by teaching them to be financially literate,” says King.

For more information about Elaine King and Family & Money Matters, go to


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Anne Marie Smith

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