The One Policy Change Personal Finance Experts Are Clamoring For

American politics often involves some messy debate. The ongoing public grappling with student loans, for instance, has made collegiate borrowers rethink their repayment strategies. Whether it falls in the social, economic, or foreign relations camp, United States policy conversations are constantly shifting to accommodate new viewpoints and novel information that clarifies things. However, there are some policy changes that aren't really controversial or even hotly debated, but rather seen as near universally valuable. For example, 60% of people recently polled by the Pew Research Center said reducing health care costs should be a top priority for Congress and the president in 2024; another 62% favored reducing the influence of money in politics.

This in mind, there's one policy change that finance experts appear to agree on without issue either. In speaking with Jason Tartick, bestselling author, finance expert, and podcast host, we uncovered a specific policy change that would positively affect every American: teaching financial literacy at the high school level. "I get fired up about that one," said Tartick, who also recently spoke to Money Analysis about how much financial illiteracy is costing Americans.

Financial literacy in the classroom

The reality is that less than 17% of American high schoolers are required to take financial literacy courses — it's a truly unsettling financial statistic. The lack of personal finance knowledge is a threat to solid money management and it could be addressed early on in every American's life. Said Jason Tartick, "[in] every classroom in America, every [student] in this country, should be required to pass a financial acumen 101 test. The basics of everything" can be found in solid financial literacy.

He continued, "Before you take out a student loan, before you get a credit card, before you graduate high school, they should put in place a course and a test that you have to pass that gives you the basic understanding of personal financial money management. Period." Tartick's passion on the subject is the product of years of watching people make potentially disastrous financial choices (and common financial mistakes).

Business Insider notes that (as of January 2024) the average FICO score among Americans is 717 while the mean VantageScore figure is 701 — both in the "good" category. These figures are buffered by older Americans' opportunities at saving, however. The average consumer under 41 (millennials and younger) showcase a mean FICO score below 700 (680 for Gen Z and 690 for millennials). With increasing economic pressure bearing down on younger Americans and the cost of essential goods and services (everything from milk and eggs to college education and a car) rising at an alarming rate, a little financial literacy education can surely go a long way.

Where to find financial literacy knowledge today

At the close of 2023, seven U.S. states required high schoolers to take a financial literacy course to graduate (Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia); although, by 2028, this number should grow to over 20, with more legislation in the works. This said, it's never too late to begin learning more about personal finance. Everyone should be working toward improvements in their money-management skills on a regular basis, so listening to podcasts about money, reading investment books, and looking to online resources to uncover the best savings and credit usage opportunities around can all be helpful approaches. 

It's also critical that parents teach their children how to manage money responsibly. For example, giving kids an allowance is a way to introduce them to concepts like budgeting, saving, and setting financial goals. Further, poor credit-card management or an inability to understand why creating an emergency fund is important and valuable can be pitfalls that continue to plague a person's long-term plans. Reading about budgeting, learning how to invest intelligently, and prioritizing backstops like the emergency savings reserve can make the difference in your financial, and indeed social, life.