An Assembly Bill, that would require all California high school students to take a full-year course in personal finance before graduating, was introduced Feb. 15, by California State Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.
AB 984, if approved, will add the completion of a one-semester course in personal finance to high school graduation requirements starting with students graduating in the 2028-29 school year. Local educational agencies, including charter schools, would be required to offer a personal finance course commencing with the 2025-26 school year.
“Students would greatly benefit from being required to take a personal finance course in high school, as learning about basic investments and interest rates are essential, and it is something they can apply for the rest of their lives,” Ahmed Ispahani, professor of business administration and economics, said.
Some college students feel they would have benefited if the high school personal finance course had been mandatory for them.
“I regret not taking a personal finance course in high school because I believe that by doing so, I could have had a better understanding of how to manage my finances and learn how to save and spend money wisely,” Geovani Andrade, freshman psychology major, said.
Some high schools do offer a personal finance class now, but it is not required.
“The bottom line is that personal finance should be taught to every student before they leave high school, and I would recommend it to juniors or seniors, as they are more likely to start putting into place the lessons taught,” David Sawhill, math and personal finance teacher at Claremont High School, said.
He presently teaches the following lessons in his Math for Personal Finance one semester course offered to CHS juniors and seniors: How to dress for a job interview, filling out an application, building a resume, answering interview questions, budgeting, understanding your paycheck, checking vs. savings accounts, investing and compound interest, understanding purchases, credit cards, credit scores, how a loan works, wills and trusts, insurance, the cost of college, purchasing a car, keeping track of expenses, filing taxes and understanding crypto currency.
“Personal finance has always been a necessary topic, but for each generation it seems to get a little bit more challenging, as companies try to take advantage of as many people as possible,” Sawhill said. “From the cost of college, housing, the need for phones, cars and the problems with spending, life is more complicated. It is probably more important now to teach our children how to protect themselves.”
With only 63% of California public high school students enrolling in college after graduation, there is a majority of students who will not learn basic personal finance skills that they will need to succeed in their prospective career. Therefore, AB 984 would provide all students, regardless of their path after high school, a way to gain essential skills that will help them succeed.
“These important lessons cannot be taught in small homeroom lessons, and many people do not go to college, so it should be taught in high school,” Sawhill said. “No matter how much you teach a person the right way to deal with money, it doesn’t mean that they will actually do it. However, I have had many students go through my class that end up starting life on the right path.”
Joseph Freeman, senior humanities major at Beacon College, took Sawhill’s personal finance course in 2017.
“The class helped my understanding of finances and how to budget, work and be an adult, and I am definitely glad I took it in high school,” Freeman said.
For more information on AB 984, visit the California Legislative Information website.
Rebecca Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.