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Are you financially capable?

By Barbara Whelehan ·
Monday, April 7, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

Last week, the White House declared April 2014 to be National Financial Capability Month. It already happens to be National Financial Literacy Month.

The new proclamation states that President Barack Obama's administration "is working alongside businesses, schools and community leaders to empower Americans with financial information."

Just who should teach Americans to be financially capable? Businesses? Community leaders? Schools?

"The onus should not be placed on schools alone," says Paul Golden, spokesperson for the National Endowment for Financial Education, or NEFE. The nonprofit organization provides educational materials that meet state standards to schools as well as individuals and families.

The role of schools

Currently, 19 states require personal finance courses to be taught in schools, but only six states test students, according to recent data from the Council for Economic Education. In an NEFE study of teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade, 89 percent said financial education should be taught in schools, but less than 20 percent of the teachers feel competent enough to teach personal finance topics, says Golden.

Schoolteachers shouldn't be held accountable for teaching children personal finance any more than for teaching them discipline.

"Parents have the most influence on how kids will learn to manage their money," says Golden.

Certified Financial Planner Leslie Corcoran of Family First Financial Planning in Stuart, Fla., concurs that it's the parents' responsibility to teach their children about money. "It is important to make this a priority as financial literacy is key to helping children meet their needs in the future, to help them avoid money fights and divorces, and to help them find contentment," she says.

Businesses feel responsible

There's a movement afoot to promote financial literacy in the workplace. But businesses do it more for selfish than altruistic reasons. After all, a worker who is worried about money isn't focused on job duties, and that contributes to a productivity problem.

Two out of five companies feel responsible for educating workers on retirement matters and to help them become better managers of their money, according to a new survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Nearly 400 organizations participated in its survey. Half of these companies said their workers have demanded more financial education over the past five years.

If you don't learn about financial literacy or retirement security from your parents, school or employer, then it behooves you to teach yourself. After all, you've expended time and energy to earn money. Why not spend some time and energy to learn how to manage it well?

As it happens, this week is National Retirement Planning Week. I plan to celebrate by sitting down and taking a hard look at the investments in my 401(k) plan to see if they need to be tweaked. And I plan to increase my savings a notch or two. What about you?

Read Sheyna Steiner's story to learn how to do an investment portfolio analysis.


Follow me on Twitter: BWhelehan.

Barbara Whelehan is a co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore and other e-book retailers.

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