The Business Law Section, Florida Chamber of Commerce, and 43 legislators have come together to support a measure that would require a full-semester financial literacy course for high school students.
HB 367 and SB 212, together known as “The Money Course,” is a recommendation of a statewide coalition led by the Florida Council on Economic Education, and comes on the heels of recent studies indicating that nearly half of Florida’s high school seniors lack understanding of financial basics like income, credit, and insurance.
“We want to empower young people with the finance skills that will take them into young adulthood and beyond,” said Stephen Nagin, chair of the Bar’s Business Law Section. “Dedicating a semester to financial literacy will help set them up for success over the long term.”
The House legislation is sponsored by Reps. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Ft. Myers, and Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, and has received the support of 34 co-sponsors. The Senate legislation is sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and has received the support of nine Senate co-sponsors.
David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said Florida’s students aren’t the only ones hurt by financial illiteracy. “Our state’s businesses, small and large, suffer when our young adults lack the fundamental financial knowledge to contribute to Florida’s economy,” Hart said. “And sound personal finances are a top factor employers consider when hiring.”
The Business Law Section and the Florida Chamber of Commerce join a number of other organizations supporting “The Money Course” legislation, including The Florida Bankers Association, the Florida Prosperity Partnership, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
“The Business Law Section of The Florida Bar and Florida Chamber recognize that ‘The Money Course’ is essential to ensuring our students are prepared for the real world after school,” said Geoff Simon, chair of the Florida Council on Economic Education.
As with all section advocacy, the issue is being advanced by the Business Law Section wholly supported by the separate resources of that voluntary organization — not in the name of The Florida Bar, and without implicating the mandatory membership fees paid by any Florida Bar licensee.
A recent study by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that students in states with required financial education courses are more likely to save, pay off their credit cards, and take average financial risks, and less likely to be compulsive buyers, max out credit, or make late payments compared to students in other states.
State legislators and the Florida Council on Economic Education are calling for a half-credit, full-semester financial literacy course to ensure students are prepared to enter adulthood and make sound financial choices, especially in light of recent statistics showing sharp rises in bankruptcies and student loan defaults among young people age 20-24. The report also detailed alarming statistics regarding young people and their finances. Almost 20 percent of student loan debt is not being repaid, with a national default rate of 9.1 percent (up from 4.6 percent in 2007), 76 percent of students don’t keep records of their spending, 25 percent of students feel unprepared to pay for college, and only 11 percent of those under age 35 participate in their company’s 401(k) plan.