Students Need More than School Supplies to Succeed

Shelley Yates, Communications Senior Advisor
November 7, 2018

Most young adults are thrust into a financial world of increasing complexity without receiving any formal training on how to navigate. Many acquire credit card and student loan debt without understanding the terms—much less the repercussions—of signing up. Once they enter the workforce, they must take ever more active roles in their own retirement planning as employers increasingly favor employee-directed retirement plans over pension plans

With increased opportunity for debt and the need to take a more active role in their own retirement planning, today’s high school students may need financial education at an earlier age than any other generation before. However, critical financial skills like budgeting, borrowing money and filing taxes are almost never formally taught.

According to a recent nationwide survey of high school students², roughly half demonstrated a lack of comprehension of basic financial facts about credit and taxation. Most worryingly, however, is that many said they felt unprepared to manage their own finances.

Today’s students become tomorrow’s investors, which is why it’s important that they understand early on about key financial concepts that apply to property ownership, saving for and financing large expenses, the relationship between maintenance and repair (i.e., the cost to maintain an item is generally lower than the cost to repair or replace it), and insurance terminology and how it works. As virtually everyone will file a tax return at some point in their lifetime, it’s likewise important that students learn at least the basics about taxation and how it affects their income.

In the absence of formalized financial literacy education, CPAs and financial advisors have the opportunity to cement their role in the lives of their clients, as well as the next generation, by stepping up to fill this role in the following ways:

  • Families that established 529 Plans nearly two decades ago likely need guidance on how to actually use them to pay for a child’s education, and many may be appreciative of assistance in completing complex FAFSA paperwork.
  • On social media, share educational resources your clients can share with their children, such the AICPA's 360degrees of Financial Literacy for college or high school students or Centsables for elementary school aged children.
  • Depending on your and your clients’ interest level, a more hands-on approach may make sense. For some, that may mean involving the young adult in meetings with their parents. For others, that may mean offering a community education seminar for parents and students. For still others, that may mean meeting one-on-one with college student on terms agreed to between parent and CPA or advisor.

An hour of your time now pay dividends in the future, as the young student turned worker eventually has assets to invest – and may have you to thank.