This recent headline -- "Merrill Lynch-Sponsored Survey Shows Financial Literacy Improving Among Nation's High School Seniors" -- caught my eye for two reasons.

For one, there has been a lot of discussion within the accounting community about the need to improve financial literacy in general. CPAs in states like California have made financial literacy a top priority, and the Foundation of the American Institute of CPAs has provided funding for new initiatives aimed at educating students and teachers about personal finances. But the other reason that headline grabbed my attention was the last three words -- high school seniors.

The survey the headline referred to, conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, reported that for the first time since 1997, high school students are reversing declining scores and are demonstrating increased aptitude and ability to manage financial resources such as credit cards, insurance, retirement funds and savings accounts.

Of the four "resources" mentioned in that sentence, the only one I had any familiarity with when I was a high school senior was a savings account -- which I used to briefly stash some of the meager earnings from my part-time job. "Credit card" wouldn't become part of my vocabulary for another year, when I would be introduced to plastic as a college freshman. And insurance and retirement funds didn't enter the picture until I got my first full-time job with benefits after college.

In any case, the survey noted that the key to the students' improvement was preparation through money management courses. My own limited knowledge of finance may stem partly from the fact that after high school, I fled from anything remotely math-related (hence my major in Literature & Rhetoric).

Of course, the irony of the fact that I now spend my days covering accounting and finance-related issues isn't lost on me. But I don't recall a course in money management -- required or otherwise -- appearing anywhere in my high school curriculum. I'm sure it would have been more useful than pre-calculus has proven to be.

Groups like the Jump$tart Coalition are aiming to improve youth financial literacy by teaching kids at an early age about things like budgeting, saving and investing. And some states are making it mandatory for students to take a course on managing their personal finances. Both sound like smart ideas to me.

By the way, April is Financial Literacy for Youth Month. I'm celebrating by helping my nine-year-old godson work out a savings plan to buy a videogame he wants that doesn’t involve me (or his mother) funding the entire expenditure. How are you celebrating?

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