Roughly half of U.S. states are now requiring teens to take financial literacy as a prerequisite for graduation. This is good news, as kids nationwide will be learning skills that they’ll use for the rest of their lives; how to file their taxes, make a budget, apply for a loan, etc. Teens, hopefully, should find themselves leaping forward empowered by knowledge to make a plan that enables them to achieve their financial goals and dreams.
But, there is a big question to ask when determining if what you are being taught is reliable: Who made the curriculum?
This sounds like a no-brainer. Of course, you’d want to know who made the curriculum so that you can be more educated on what the purpose of the taught material might be. Is it designed to incentivize students to use a financial service that benefits the company? That’s one question that’s worth addressing.
But that analytical thinking is often easier said than done when we teens are slouched over at our desks in a freezing classroom. As students, we can forget, in our boredom, that it’s smart to understand who is teaching you and what their motivation might be for offering the advice they give.
Sometimes we just assume that if we are learning a curriculum from a self-proclaimed financial guru, they must know what they are talking about — “It’s not like just anyone can make financial literacy content to sell to schools,” we might believe. They must have had to be certified by someone, right? Except anyone can sell a curriculum riddled with financial ideology and advice to a school, so long as the person making the decision gave it the okay.
But just because the person talking about taxes in the YouTube video your class is watching wrote a book doesn’t mean she is trying to educate and empower you to make the financial decisions that will help you get to where you want to go.
If your class is taught that student loans are always a great idea, for example, take a step back to analyze the curriculum provider’s possible motivation for preaching that message. If a student loan provider, for the sake of hypotheticals, finds that hyping up money habits in a learning environment to influence students to use their services gains them credibility and boosts their future customer base, they have an incentive to suggest taking an action like borrowing money for college, when providing teaching material for a school subject that is largely up to interpretation, is a good decision.
This is where it is crucial a student takes a second to pause and reflect on if they are being taught a money habit because it benefits the curriculum maker or if the education they are receiving lines up with helping them reach their goals.
So, before applying financial advice to your life, ask how following it will drive you towards accomplishing your goals. If the answer is that said advice won’t help you get closer to reaching your dreams, scrap that advice and create a plan that enables you to create your future.
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