April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's a good time to examine personal financial capability here in Arkansas. And there is room for improvement.
The Natural State ranked 49th in WalletHub.com's survey of the most and least financially literate states in America, which also included the District of Columbia. Arkansas ranked 51st for knowledge and education, a category which included the high school dropout rate, percentage of residents who hold at least bachelor's degrees and number of library branches per 100,000 residents.
The state ranked 47th for planning and daily habits, which included the percentages of people who spend more than they make, of people who borrow from nonbank lenders and of "unbanked" households, or those who don't have traditional bank accounts and instead may rely on costly alternative financial services.
The bright light at the end of the tunnel is that financial education has proven benefits, and leaders across the country, including here in Arkansas, are taking steps to increase educational requirements in personal finance and economics.
A recent study illustrates the benefits of financial education. Researchers from the Federal Reserve Board, the University of Wisconsin and Montana State University looked at credit behaviors of young adults following high school graduation. They examined the period 2000-2013 and focused on Georgia, Idaho and Texas, where financial education was mandated in each state after 2007.
Over time, young adults in these states had better credit scores and fewer credit delinquencies compared to people in neighboring states without required financial education.
Beginning with the class of 2014, all Arkansas students are required to take a semester-long course in economics to graduate from high school.
Still, more can be done, and resources are available to help. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, including its branch in Little Rock, offers award-winning, free classroom resources for K-16 educators to teach about economics, personal finance, money and banking, and the Federal Reserve.
Our economic and financial education resources reach about 400,000 students across the country each year.
Similar free resources are available for parents and the public at large, and the St. Louis Fed offers free opportunities for teacher professional development and continuing education credit. There is no cost to access these resources at stlouisfed.org/education.
Teaching our youth economics and personal finance has the potential to improve personal financial capability here in Arkansas. Educated consumers are more likely to make better financial decisions.
Our children deserve that.
Our economy deserves that.
Robert Hopkins is the regional executive at the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Editorial on 04/16/2015
Print Headline: Room to improve