Recent studies point to Minnesota as one of the best states in the U.S. for financial literacy, but the truth of the matter is we can — and have to be — even better.

To mark Financial Literacy Month, we set out to learn more about the state of education across the country, including here in Minnesota. And what we found was surprising.

We haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to providing our children with the basic tools they will need to make smart decisions about their financial future.

We spoke with more than 2,000 teachers across the country, ranging from kindergarten through high school. While 92 percent of educators we spoke with nationally recognized the importance of teaching financial education in elementary school, they also admitted that very few of them know how to do so.

Minnesota teachers cited money management skills as the top benefit of financial literacy for students, followed by planning for the future, understanding debt, and decisionmaking. Learning to create and maintain a budget, for example, was acknowledged as an invaluable skill.

But an overwhelming number of Minnesota teachers (81 percent) cited a lack of appropriate curriculum to teach students personal finance skills. And only 28 percent of Minnesota teachers said they feel “completely comfortable” teaching financial literacy in the classroom.

Even though there is widespread recognition of the benefits of financial literacy and its ability to empower our youth and future generation of leaders, Minnesota teachers desperately lack the basic resources and training needed to teach financial education in the classroom.

To me, that’s a big problem. And even more troubling are these stats:

•  Only 12 percent of teachers nationwide (K-12) actually incorporate financial education into their lessons.

 

• What’s more, more than half (54 percent) of the teachers in Minnesota believe it’s unlikely their students receive any financial education at home.

There’s some good news. The teachers in our state are resourceful. Even though they don’t have the tools they need, Minnesota teachers are proactively finding other sources, such as free online sites or materials from other teachers to apply in their lessons.

Engaged local organizations like BestPrep, the Minnesota Council on Economic Education and Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest also provide programs that address these problems. The Minnesota Department of Education recently changed the K-12 social studies standards to strengthen economics and, specifically, curriculum around personal finance. The change in these standards has driven stronger demand from teachers for these programs.

Still, we need to do more. Our teachers need more support to be able to adequately teach financial education in the classrooms — and we, as parents, can do more at home, too.

The lack of financial education in the classroom is one of the biggest threats to social advancement and innovation that we face today. It’s not just a problem in our state — our entire country is at risk.

The current generation of working millennials is confronting greater economic difficulties than their parents did. They’re carrying too much debt, engaging in expensive credit-card behaviors and raiding their retirement accounts — if they have one at all. The next generation is destined for the same fate unless we take action now.

There’s no better time to commit to the financial security of our children and communities. At PwC, we’re investing in curriculum development and in-classroom resources such as the PwC Charitable Foundation’s new Earn Your Future Digital Lab — a free resource for students, parents and teachers in Minnesota and across the nation.

Empowering our children with financial education can help bridge our country’s wealth gap and strengthen our communities — helping those who need it most. We can take a stand and do our part as parents by teaching personal finance to our kids at home, too.

It’s time to turn up the volume on conversations about earnings and income, spending, saving, borrowing and investing. These conversations matter — to all of us.

 

Tom Montminy is the Greater Minneapolis market managing partner at PwC and is on the board of directors for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest. Reach him at thomas.e.montminy@pwc.com