Surprise, surprise: Compared to kids across the world, American teens are downright middling in their financial literacy. Gentleman's Cs for everyone!
That's according to the Wall Street Journal, reporting on a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD tested 15-year-olds from several nations on topics like credit cards, taxes and bank accounts, then ranked countries according to their performance. Teens in Shanghai won hands-down, followed by Belgium, Estonia, Australia and New Zealand. American teens landed smack in the middle, taking ninth place.
Somewhere in the ghostly realms, a single tear tracks down Ben Franklin's cheek.
An alarming 18.9 percent of American teens didn't even demonstrate a baseline understanding of finances. I.e., they can't do much more than exchange money for goods and distinguish between a need and a want. The good news is, boys and girls were roughly equally middling in their knowledge. So at least there's parity in the incompetence.
The report suggests that the U.S. and similarly underwhelming nations might consider boning up their curricular offerings re: finances. NOT SO, says Jim Peniston, the executive director of the Foundation for Financial Planning, the random American expert the WSJ contacted for his two cents:
He maintained, unlike the report's authors, that increasing funding for school-based financial literacy programs would be a mistake. The essentials of financial planning — how to save, when to donate money to charity — are values instilled through family, he said.
"I don't put it on the school system, I put it on our generation," Mr. Peniston said. "What do kids learn? They learn from what they see at home."
So I guess let's handle financial planning just like we handle sex ed: By sticking our heads in the sand as we slide slowly down the rankings internationally. You're own your own, teens! Enjoy being broke and pregnant!
Photo via Edyta Pawlowska/Shutterstock.