What Do School Kids Know About Money?

You can’t have lived on planet Earth and not have heard or seen anything about the hit TV show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” It was a game show in which adult contestants answer questions as if they came from an elementary grade school quiz, and actual 5th graders helped them and usually outdid the adults with more correct answers. The host, comedian Jeff Foxworthy, starred on the show beginning back in 2007 and after 2009 it ran in syndication and still appears on TV to this day.

It's our responsibility to teach kids about money, but they often aren't learning about it in school. Here are some money questions to ask your kids.

That whole thing got me to thinking. If 5th graders can answer some pretty basic questions about science, math, history, and the like better than adults, what can they do when the questions turn to money and finance? It just may be that they may know a lot, and forgive me for saying it, but they forget most of it by the time they turn into adults.

How Else Can You Explain It?

There seems to be no other explanation that I can think of as to why full-blown adults tend to make such at best silly and at worst stupid mistakes when it comes to money! They simply forget what they learned because the spending is so much more fun than the saving!

You know it’s so true because you may yourself have been one of those kids-turned-adults and been in that spot. It seems to just happen without much resistance from us because we all want is to spend money and that’s the plan even when we have no other plan! Can you really say that most young adults have a plan to save money just like they do when it comes to spending?

Where Do Schools Teach Kids About Money?

Most states have standards that are woven into the curriculum to dictate what students are taught in public schools, but how much of it relates to economics, personal finances, and money? Not much, even in 2019.

The state curricula are then tied directly to a series of standardized tests. While there is some latitude within the curriculum, increasingly education is revolving around these high-stakes standardized tests. So what did you expect, I have derived my very own standardized money test for 5th graders!!! There are questions I would love to ask the kids and see exactly where they fall on their answers. I can recall my feelings towards some of them back in my time as a 10-year-old and how I felt. I am betting that unfortunately, it really hasn’t changed very much over the past six decades.

Fortunately, some states started just a few years ago, actually requiring personal finance within the curriculum before a high school student graduates. It’s about f**king time, if you’ll pardon my French.

After all, it’s nice to be able to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle, but seriously, what can be more important to someone than learning how to balance their checking account or handle credit properly?

Some Real Money Questions for You

To begin with, here are a few real money-related questions you can ask your kids or kids you know that will give you some idea of what they actually know about money. These questions about money, advertising, and lifestyles are applicable whether you live in New York, California, or Missouri, the American heartland. Here’s what I want answers to:

Question #1: Which is more important, to earn a lot of money or to find a job that you really enjoy doing?

Question #2: Do you think owning more stuff will make you happier?

Question #3: How does the advertising you see and hear affect you?

Question #4: If your friend gets a new thing or object, how does this make you feel and affect you?

Question #5: What are credit cards used for and why do you need or want them? Most 10-year-olds understand the purpose of credit cards

Question #6: If you earned $500, how much would you save and how much would you spend?

Question #7: How much money do you expect to earn per year when you get your first real job? The median household income in 2018 was $63,000 per year in the USA

Question #8: Do you think your family acts responsibly with their money?

Question #9: How many ways have you tried to earn money and how many ways do you think are possible to do it?

Question #10: Why do you think money is so important to people?

What You Can Learn from Asking Kids Money Questions

One thing stands out clearly: kids listen when you talk to them and that is also true even when you talk to them about money. Kids will always give you responses that align with the values about money and life that they have seen and learned throughout their lives, even by an early age like 10 years old.

The problem is that we just don’t talk to them enough about it with them at home or at school to really understand what it is they actually have learned.

Where Does the Fault Lie?

Did you know that most states in the U.S. don’t make teaching personal finance to students required prior to high school graduation?

The Jump$tart Coalition surveyed high school seniors on personal finance knowledge and they averaged a dismal 65% score, a below passing grade on almost any scorecard!

Worse, on one question, only 50% of the students were aware of the financial costs of paying only the minimums on credit cards. OMG, disaster just waiting to happen! Yes, this information is incredibly important! That’s why you need to talk to your kids about money while they are kids.

Final Thoughts

I encourage each of you who have children or are in a peer/mentor relationship with any young person to share what you have learned about money and life over the years. Don’t preach to them and speak as a voice of authority. Instead, teach them.

Talk with them about the mistakes you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learned when it comes to money. Find everyday examples to show them how to handle their money correctly. A young person who gains a really good understanding of personal finance now will be able to pave his or her own way in life and have a much better chance of avoiding and dealing with self-made money issues.

How are you insuring you teach kids about money? What problems are you having? How would your kids do in answering my quiz? What other questions would you want their answers to?

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