Teaching Americans to be better financial planners has to happen early and often, a panel of bankers, regulators and educators told two members of Congress on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., were at KU’s Dole Institute of Politics to listen as regional experts on financial literacy talked about the need to beef up financial education in schools and find ways to reach the adults who need it the most but are reluctant to seek help.
The testimony was part of a field hearing for the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which Moore chairs.
Tuesday’s hearing was the third in a series that focused on how Americans’ personal finances played into the economic collapse.
“We are constantly bombarded with the message that we deserve — no, we are entitled — to have a new car, new house, new clothing, newest electronic gadget. What we don’t hear is that those things have to be paid for from what we earn,” said Shawn Mitchell, president and CEO of the Community Bankers Association of Kansas.
“We see too many examples of good people who have made themselves victims of poor financial management simply because they did not understand what they could truly afford,” he said.
Providing financial education early in schools is important, even if it means reaching out to grade school students. But in a world where curriculum is geared toward standardized testing, teachers don’t often have the time to incorporate financial education into the classroom, panelists said.
Financial literacy is just as important for adults and those on the brink of adulthood, especially as financial products become more complicated.
Kansas Deputy Bank Commissioner Kevin Glendening said reaching adults remains a challenge.
“Many of the problems and behaviors that can contribute to an individual’s financial distress are the same issues that can make delivering financial literacy information to adults difficult,” Glendening said.
As for what the representatives will do with Tuesday’s comments, Moore said he is working on a house bill sponsored by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., that would expand educational opportunities for adults.
“I think we need to start very early and bring it up for adults because there is a huge lack of understanding by the adult population in this country about fiscal matters, financial matters and credit cards,” Moore said.
Jenkins said she too heard that education needed to be provided from “cradle to grave,” but thought the matter was best left to the states.
“We asked in many different ways, how could the federal government help in coordinating and what could we do from the federal level,” Jenkins said. “And my sense was to keep our hands off and let the state government and our officials and regulators and commissioners here in the state address the issue.”