Op-Ed: Lack Of Education Linked To Record Levels Of Debt

Millions of people are graduating from college dreaming of building a successful career and someday forming a family, but many end up without a job and thousands in student-loan debt.

Student debt reached $1 trillion this year, and it keeps escalating day by day. In this harsh economy, most people blame current economic conditions for debt among youths, but the truth is that lack of financial education is another central reason behind debt and money problems.

The Treasury Department and Department of Education have measured financial literacy in high schools for the last three years finding that students scored an average of 70 and 69 percent in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  The scores are the results of poor financial education in schools and parents failing to teach their children about money.

Financial education must start from an early age. In the same way children learn about writing and reading, they should learn to manage money. It doesn’t mean that at the age of 8 children should know how credit cards work, but they should be able to administer their allowance, and later on learn basic finances to avoid falling into debt once they obtain their first credit card.

Here's How Young people can Reduce Debt and Become Financial Savvy:

Break the cycle of debt: An independent survey conducted by PNC in 2012 showed that young Americans who are in their 20's carry about $45,000 in overall debt.  Since most children repeat their parents’ behavior, those who grow up surrounded by debt, tend to make financial mistakes when they are adults. In order to break with this cycle, it's important to only give teenagers a credit card if they are financially responsible and are earning some income. Being financially responsible means that teenagers are able to pay their bills on time and prioritize expenses.

It's never too late to learn: In an ideal world young adults would know how to budget and administer their money. Unfortunately, many people start college without having any financial knowledge. In the United States only 13 states require high school students to take a finance class, according to a survey conducted by the Council for Economic Education. The study showed that in those 13 states students who took the course were more likely to pay their credit card on time and save money. People need to keep in mind that it's never too late to acquire new skills. College students can take economics or finances and read about financial education at the learning section of ConsolidatedCredit.org.

Monitor credit card reports: When young adults have a good understanding of how credit works, they are more apt to check their credit reports. Many people don't know what information is included in their reports and those who do, are more likely to make sure their credit is in good standing in the future.

Seek help: Budgeting and paying off debt is not an easy process for individuals who have high amounts of debt or who never learned about money management.  Seeking professional guidance may be the key for individuals to eliminate debt and improve their finances in the future. Visit ConsolidatedCredit.org to get a free debt analysis.

Howard Dvorkin is a personal finance expert and consumer advocate who has been helping people for more than 15 years. He is the founder of Consolidated Credit and the author of Credit Hell: How To Dig Out of Debt.


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