The recent U.S. government shutdown reminded us of the importance of financial literacy by highlighting how unprepared many U.S. households were to weather the month-long storm.
According to a survey by Prudential Financial, more than a quarter of federal employees missed a mortgage or rent payment, while nearly half fell behind on bills during the shutdown.
Ensuring that girls and women, in particular, understand the basics of personal finance and economics — not just to be ready for rainy days but also to plan for a successful financial life — is critical for at least two key reasons: American women often live longer than men and more frequently manage their household’s finances.
Educated girls and women increase the odds that families will be able to manage costs such as college, health care and retirement. Financially secure families, in turn, improve the outlook for the broader U.S. economy.
There is work to be done. A study of 8- to 17-year-old girls and their parents by the Girl Scout Research Institute found nearly all girls surveyed wanting jobs and expecting to take care of their families, but having little confidence around personal finances.
Only about a third of girls said they are knowledgeable about how to invest money and make it grow, while just more than 10 percent felt very confident about financial decisions.
Other recent studies show similar trends among women — both a lack of confidence and a lack of planning for life events such as retirement, even after accounting for education and income levels.
Boosting our economy through greater female financial literacy will take time and require greater focus from both public and private sectors. But there is plenty we can do today — even simple things. Encourage girls to study math and look for ways for them to make money (lemonade stands, babysitting, etc). Talk with girls about how to manage earnings (saving versus spending or investing). Consider a child-friendly savings account.
Talk about the family’s finances. Explain the value of money when you shop. Push your local schools to incorporate basic economics and financial literacy in curriculum. Anyone who wants a strong U.S. economy should push for a financially literate population — especially girls and women.
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