Teens Respond Well to
Financial Education, Study Shows
Financial Knowledge and Behavior
Improve Immediately—and Are Retained
A recently released, national evaluation
of a teen financial education program shows
that young people who studied the curriculum
for as little as 10 hours not only significantly
increased their understanding of money management,
but also improved their financial behavior
in the ensuing months.
The impact evaluation was conducted during
the 2003-2004 academic year on the NEFE High
School Financial Planning Program® (HSFPP),
which is provided to schools at no cost by
the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®).
NEFE is the nation’s only nonprofit
foundation wholly dedicated to helping Americans
take control of their finances.
The NEFE High School Financial Planning
Program is offered in partnership with the
U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative
State Research, Education and Extensive Service
and participating Land-Grant University Cooperative
Extension Services (CES); and with the Credit
Union National Association, Inc., and America's
Credit Union (CUNA).
The study posed a series of questions to
students at three points in time. At the
completion of the program, students were
asked 14 core questions related to what they
gained from the curriculum. Using their answers
as a foundation, the students then were asked
the same questions in relation to what they
knew before they studied the curriculum.
Finally, students were asked the same questions
again three months later. Questions and results
were grouped into the categories of financial
knowledge, confidence and behavior. Results
showed statistically significant improvement
in all categories immediately after the program—and
further improvements later on.
In the area of behavior, for example, 18.5
percent of students said that before they
studied the curriculum they “almost
always” set aside money for future
needs and wants; after the program, the percentage
increased to 28. Three months later, the
number had grown to 36.5 percent. Likewise,
the percentage of students who said they “almost
always” set goals for managing money
nearly tripled, from nine percent before
the program, to 15 percent immediately after
the program and 24 percent three months later.
Other evaluation results showed that 42
percent of students said before studying
the HSFPP, they strongly agreed that they
knew the difference between needs and wants;
immediately after the program, the number
grew to 67—an increase of 25 percent.
The number rose further, to 80.5 percent,
in the three-month follow-up. Similarly,
19 percent of students said they “almost
always” felt confident about making
financial decisions before studying the HSFPP.
The percentage increased to 29 after the
program, and three months later it had grown
to 37.5 percent.
These results suggest that even relatively
limited exposure to financial education can
impart significant, lasting and practical
personal financial knowledge to young people
from all walks of life.
Sharon M. Danes, Ph.D., professor and family
economist at the University of Minnesota,
conducted the evaluation of students and
teachers across the country.
“Through both the answers to evaluation
survey questions and their own words, teens
throughout the U.S. have reported that they
not only have learned about personal finance
by studying the HSFPP, but many have changed
their spending and saving behavior and are
more confident about managing their finances
in the future,” she said.
Of the 5,329 students surveyed who studied
the HSFPP, 95 percent were in high school,
and nearly 70 percent were juniors and seniors.
Rural areas, small communities, medium-sized
cities and large metropolitan areas were
almost equally represented. A smaller number
of students—324—took part in
the three-month follow-up survey, primarily
for logistical reasons.
“The High School Financial Planning
Program has allowed millions of students
to have the opportunity to gain the skills
necessary to lead financially secure and
rewarding lives in adulthood,” said
William L. Anthes, Ph.D., president and CEO
of the National Endowment for Financial Education. “The
program’s value has been proven and
America’s youth are benefiting from
it,” added Elizabeth Schiever, director
of the HSFPP.
A complete copy of the “Evaluation
of the NEFE High School Financial Planning
Program” is available on the NEFE Web
site, at www.nefe.org,
in the Education Programs section.
The program was introduced in 1984 as a
public service project and has been studied
by nearly four million young people. Consisting
of six units, the curriculum uses real-world
scenarios to teach teens how to manage their
money. Coursework focuses on goal setting,
budgeting and saving, while covering topics
such as financial responsibility, earning
money, compound interest, credit and insurance.
The program is designed to be used within
the context of existing courses and can be
presented over a period of weeks or months.
It can be taught in as few as 10 hours of
classroom instruction, although many instructors
teach it even longer to give students the
full benefit of the program. A step-by-step
Instructor’s Manual and 120-page Student
Guide, contain all necessary course material.
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