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Arkansas gets failing grade on personal finance education

There was a time in our history when reading, writing and arithmetic were considered to be the basics required for a person to be a successful and have a fruitful life.

These days, the demands of society are greater. We live in a credit-driven world with complicated terms and conditions. That puts great pressure on individuals in Arkansas to be savvier about their finances. But even then, financial crises can strike without warning and throw any family into a financial tailspin.

Options for obtaining debt relief do exist, of course. But understanding the options and finding the right method can leave even the savvy person confused and frustrated. Consulting an experienced bankruptcy attorney is always advisable to make sure that the right steps are taken.

According to advocates, the ultimate solution to the problem is to erase financial illiteracy. They say the way to do that is for states to make financial literacy topics core curricula in all high schools. They say proficiency should be a graduation requirement, too.

They say getting to that point would mean setting up a national standard defining financial literacy and then finding and dedicating the money to train teachers, implement the program and conduct testing to make sure it's working.

This is a model that the Center for Financial Literacy says is sorely lacking in most states. According to a recent report card issued by the CFL, only seven states get an A grade. Thirteen get a B. Nearly half of the states, including Arkansas and the CFL's home state of Vermont, get grades of D or F.

Experts in the financial literacy arena say the reasons for the learning gaps are many. One of the most commonly cited is a lack of money. School districts are cash strapped and every subject is fighting for dollars. Financial literacy often doesn't get considered. Another concern, they say, is that few teachers feel competent to teach others about personal finance, savings and debt management.

Still others say teaching financial literacy to students won't do much good if their parents lack the training, too. They say financial literacy needs to be addressed by providing the training at a community wide scale.

Source: TheFiscalTimes.com, "Why High School Kids Are Financially Illiterate," David Koeppel, July 30, 2013

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