Every April, National Financial Literacy Month presents us with an opportunity to focus our attention on how we can best prepare Ohio’s young people to make wise financial decisions. For the next generation to achieve financial success, they’ll need a solid understanding of the fundamentals of personal finance, the ability to adapt to new technologies, and the resiliency to weather financial challenges and economic uncertainties.
Over the last decade, technology has rapidly transformed how we manage our finances. Smartphone apps have replaced bank deposit slips. For many prospective homebuyers, getting a mortgage starts with an online search rather than a visit to a local bank branch or lender. Navigating these technological changes alone can be difficult. But when you add in economic uncertainty like we’re currently seeing, preparing for the future can feel downright overwhelming.
With 40-year high inflation driving up prices across the board – from the gas pump to the grocery store – many Ohioans are understandably concerned about how they’ll make ends meet and save for the future. Young people who want to start families and buy their first homes are having to delay those milestones. People nearing retirement who once thought they had saved enough are now learning they will need more. How can consumers plan for future large purchases or stick to their monthly budgets in the face of such drastic price instability?
Making sense of this changing landscape requires a strong grasp of the fundamentals of personal finance, and effective financial education is crucial for teaching those important concepts. Budgets, savings, credit, and investments are foundational components of financial literacy, but for Ohioans to truly thrive, we need to demonstrate how these concepts connect to their lives and their financial goals.
Across the Buckeye State, we’re fortunate to have educators and organizations developing and implementing innovative approaches to financial education. Recognizing and supporting this important work is why my office launched the monthly Compass Award recognition program in January 2020. Through their work, Compass Award honorees have demonstrated success in the area of financial education and empowerment and are helping to lead young Ohioans on a path toward future success. I’ve had the privilege to visit every corner of the state to deliver Compass Awards and see these innovative efforts in action.
Our work hasn’t stopped there. In February 2021, we announced a partnership with The Ohio State University to expand the use of the school’s Real Money. Real World. curriculum in school districts across Ohio.
As part of Real Money. Real World., students participate in an interactive simulation where they make real-life lifestyle and budgeting choices similar to those they will face as adults. By educating students about real world spending scenarios like utility and childcare costs, budget creation and management, and the impact of debt, they can directly see how various financial decisions will impact their lives.
Through experience-based learning, we can do more than just inform students about personal finance – we can bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. But financial education isn’t just for students, it’s beneficial throughout life. When it comes to personal finance, there are things we all wish we learned earlier. That’s why the Treasurer’s office features an online Financial Literacy Resource Guide on our website, so Ohioans can easily access helpful information about budgeting, saving, borrowing, and retirement that can lead them toward a healthy financial future.
Financial literacy empowers individuals of all ages to be prepared for life’s challenges, while also laying the foundation for achieving success down the road, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done in the Treasurer’s office to highlight innovative financial education opportunities across the Buckeye State. For more information about our efforts to support financial literacy, or to view our online Financial Literacy Resource Guide, please visit our website at www.tos.ohio.gov/financial-literacy.
Robert Sprague is Ohio treasurer.