Letter: Financial illiteracy is plaguing Iowa, the U.S.

There is a financial illiteracy epidemic in the United States, and it didn’t happen overnight. According to the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, “The average household with debt carries approximately $10,000 to $12,000 in total revolving debt and has credit credit cards … More people filed for bankruptcy than graduated from college in 2002.” Most Americans from the time they are born only learn how to spend, not how to save and budget, which is why the U.S. is a spending economy. This is something that must change sooner, rather than later.

In 2003, Congress passed the Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act to develop the nation’s financial literacy through education. Through this act, states are in charge of setting up their own requirements for addressing this epidemic. As of 2009, a personal finance course was not required curriculum in Iowa schools, while many other states are requiring this course to be offered and some are requiring attendance. Having an act and actually doing something about the problem are two very different things.

It is necessary that Americans take charge of their financial situation, today. It is a vicious cycle when parents pass on financial illiteracy. To help Americans take hold of their financials, our great state of Iowa needs to start requiring a personal finance course; I understand this will take time to introduce and will cost more money, but something needs to happen to help turn our state and nation around in this economy.

In the meantime, policymakers can publicize the current resources using more numerous and effective methods. For example, the U.S. government has set up a website called MyMoney.gov where one can find information on just about anything financial, but many people don’t know about it.

Iowans pride themselves on having high-quality education compared to most other states, but if our school systems are lacking necessary curriculum to prepare us for the “real world,” we are set up to fail financially.

One of the reasons I am studying to be a financial adviser is to spread the word about financial illiteracy. So, please, join me in this fight against financial illiteracy by taking charge of your own financial situation and by writing to your representatives about this epidemic.