Student Perspectives toward Key Personal Finance Variables

Article excerpt

Abstract

Purpose: In the current economic climate, young people's attitudes and habits related to money management seem to be of great interest. The primary purpose of this study is to advance the knowledge base in the area of personal finance education. Methodology: This survey was administered by English teachers to a convenience sample population of 326 high school seniors, representing seven small, medium, and large public high schools in a midwestern state. The survey gathered the students' perceptions related to purchasing decisions and courses they had taken. Results: Findings included the following: (1) students expect to equal or surpass their parents' standard of living; (2) the strongest influence on students' money management decisions was their own independent thinking; (3) a part-time job was their most important source of income, (4) the median amount students spent in a month was $115; (5) when spending money, males were more influenced than females by external factors such as movies or the Internet; (6) business classes provided more helpful money management information than other classes; and (7) the personal finance topic taught the least often was home mortgages. Conclusion: A major conclusion was that these high school seniors have a positive outlook on their future earning power, in fact, expecting to equal or surpass their parents' standard of living.

Introduction

Financial literacy is essential for all citizens, regardless of profession, because their money management decisions have an enormous impact on their economic security. The current economic recession is focusing greater attention on the role of financial planning in attainment of appropriate financial results. Unfortunately, the necessary financial acumen is not always present, causing serious financial complications in families' everyday lives. During this economic climate, it is especially important to determine how people, especially students, acquire relevant information concerning spending and saving alternatives and to determine the extent to which wise financial behaviors are actually practiced.

According to a recent survey of financial literacy (NFCC, 2009), one-third of adults had no savings at all, and a similar percentage did not set aside any annual income for retirement purposes. Various studies, such as Norvilitis et al. (2006) and Jones (2005), emphasize the need to train students in the effective management of personal finances. To improve instruction in personal finance, it is important to understand students' perceptions of money management, financial services, and what they learn about these topics in high school. The present study is intended to provide that information.

Background Perspectives

Personal financial literacy and the ability to apply it when making personal economic decisions are important to individuals throughout their lives. Frequently, decisions made in early adulthood will impact a person's entire life, especially decisions that adversely affect credit and finances. With the recent economic crisis crippling millions of individuals, a renewed interest in personal financial literacy concepts being taught at the high school level has emerged. State legislatures and boards of education are more likely to consider legislation to assure students graduate from high school with some knowledge of basic financial literacy concepts. This knowledge may be in the form of courses required for graduation or policies to ensure students receive foundational understandings.

Personal finance instruction has increased over the last few years. Results from the National Council on Economic Education (2009) survey concerning the state of economic and personal finance education indicated that personal finance was included in the education standards of 34 states in 2009 as compared to 28 states in 2007, and economics was included in the educational standards of 49 states. However, only 13 states require a personal finance course for high school graduation (up from seven in 2007); but some of those states required courses in economics that included personal finance concepts but did not require standalone personal finance courses. …