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The Impact of Financial Education and the National Financial Capability Challenge


I’ll admit it– I have the best job in the world!  I have the opportunity to go to work every day knowing that my efforts positively impact young people.  I believe that as educators and professionals who interact with students on a daily basis we are uniquely positioned to guide students in exactly this way, but how many of us truly feel that the topics we teach will impact kids when they are 30, 40, or 50 years old?

The area of financial education allows us to do precisely that.  We are providing tomorrow’s leaders with critical life skills that are vitally important for success, more so now than ever before.  It’s no secret that our nation’s economy has suffered in the past few years in part due to a general lack of personal financial literacy.

The National Financial Capability Challenge was created to help students better understand real-world financial concepts critical to their success as adults.  It accomplishes several objectives, including providing insight into the financial acumen of our young people and offering school districts the opportunity to compare results against their peers nationwide.  But most importantly to me, the Challenge allows students to recognize those things that they don’t know and delivers a “reality check” to those who feel they are already prepared to tackle the complexity of the real world.  

Treynor Community Schools use the Challenge as a testing component within its K-12 financial education program.  Every senior is required to take the Challenge, as are all 9th – 11th grade students who take “Personal Finance” in our schools.  We participated in the inaugural Challenge, in 2010, when approximately 10% of our students scored in the top 20% nationally; last year, that increased to 27% and we plan to improve upon that success again this year.

Financial literacy impacts everyone and can be taught in just about any classroom, regardless of discipline.  It is interwoven in the fabric of our daily lives and should be a point of emphasis in schools throughout the nation.  I implore educators across the country to consider participating in the Challenge this year; the knowledge our students gain through participation can make a significant difference in their lives!

Bob Mantell is the Financial Literacy Director for Treynor Community Schools in Treynor, Iowa.