As the back-to-school season is finally upon us, it is encouraging to think about all that our children will learn in this new academic school year. I was among the many parents in Arizona packing lunch boxes and taking the traditional “first day of school” photos of my children. As they headed into their new classrooms, I smiled, thinking about all of the opportunities they will have.

This school year, Arizonans have something new to smile about as all our high school students will be taught financial literacy during their economics class as a requirement before they graduate. This change is due to legislation I advanced during my first weeks in office as the Arizona State Treasurer. Senate bill 1184 passed through both the Arizona Senate and the Arizona House of Representatives with wide, bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Doug Ducey on April 11.

The importance of Arizonans knowing the basics of personal money management being taught in schools became obvious 12 years ago, when I spoke at a student orientation for freshmen being introduced to college life. As I walked to the ballroom where I was to give a speech, I saw a group of credit card companies lined up table after table, ready to register hundreds of young students as new carriers of credit cards. During the forum, I asked the college students in the audience, “How many of you just signed up for your first credit card?” Dozens of hands went up. Then I asked, “How many of you have ever taken a financial education class in your high school?” Not one hand went up.

This eye-opening experience occurred more than a decade ago. And the situation has not improved. Consider the following statistics:

• Outstanding student loan debt stands at $1.6 trillion, up from $1.52 trillion the previous year.

• Only 41% of adults in the United States have a budget and keep track of their spending.

• Of millennials ages 18-34, one in eight individuals have debts in collections.

• 39% of millennial women don’t pay their bills on time and are twice as likely than millennial men to take out a high interest loan to cover a $2,000 emergency.

• A record 7 million Americans are three months behind in their car payments.

As Arizona’s newly-elected State Treasurer, it was important for me to continue my advocacy of financial education and make this important issue a cornerstone of my Administration. My financial literacy bill was just the start. In June, I appointed Arizona’s first-ever Task Force on Financial Literacy, aimed at making sure all Arizonans will have the opportunity to attain proficiency in basic money management. This 17-member Task Force is already taking the next steps to bring resources to students, seniors, military veterans and vulnerable populations who need help with managing their money across our great state.

While the Task Force is hard at work, our high school students will be starting the new school year with learning the basics about personal finances. This is a critical life skill. Finally, Arizona students will be prepared to manage their money before going out into the world as adults. They will be taught the basic skills of balancing their checkbook and understanding the consequences of not paying off credit card debt month-to-month. Financial education empowers young people to achieve financial freedom so they can attain their personal and professional goals. With that freedom, our young people can achieve anything.

Kimberly Yee is the State Treasurer of Arizona. She oversees the cash management of Arizona’s $40 billion state budget.

Kimberly Yee is the State Treasurer of Arizona. She oversees the cash management of Arizona’s $40 billion state budget.

(6) comments


Kimberly: I applaud your efforts in the matter. I used to teach personal and family financial management to adults, as a volunteer. I named my course "The Death of the Refrigerator". My students were astonished to learn that a $1000 fridge bought with typical consumer finance with 36 payments would cost them $1334 but if bought from a sinking fund would cost them just $700. On the first day of class, I presented my adult students with the most advanced financial tool ever invented--a pair of scissors, and challenged them to come to the table and cut up their credit cards. Not one student did so. On the last day of the class, I issued the same challenge and about 80% did so. They were the ones I could save. I am afraid the others went on into the credit abyss.

Intense education in financial management is a good set of tools; however, they are of little use if the bearer of the tool box has poor character. Character is 90% self-discipline which is the necessary ingredient for successful financial management, and nearly everything else in life. Self discipline arises from early home teaching, sometimes from athletic competition and often by military service. One of its most important dimensions is the perpetual postponement of short-term gratification for the longer term good. It applies not just to financial matters. We see that same lack of character in peoples' responses to global warming where so few are able to sacrifice short-term gratification(and profit)for the long term good, especially when that good is to be conferred upon future generations.

As Mr. Good-Wrench used to say, "You can pay me now or pay me later."


The problem with many—not just younger people but older folks as well—is this: they mistake credit cards as plastic money. Credit cards are NOT assets—they’re just debt we haven’t run up yet. I am using credit cards very sparingly and pay the debt down to zero ASAP. I am sure Visa and MasterCard don’t like me very much, but so what?


Marc: Right on.

che guevara

Good comments Ron and Marc , I could not agree more . I too have always abhorred the prospect of ever being an instrument of wealth ( a slave really ) to the bankers and the bloodsuckers of finance via the allure of living beyond one's means . I have had the same Visa card for over 30 years , I use it only for emergencies or if something unexpected comes up , and then promptly pay the stupid thing off completely upon receipt of the statement . In these 30 plus years of having the card I have not paid one single penny of interest to Shylock and his minions . Debt = Slavery ; and much in the same fashion as the gourmand digs their own grave with the knife - fork and spoon , those seduced by materialism / consumerism also dig their own graves by way of their chosen form of gluttony . The primary focus of the banks is to get the money out on the street via one enticement or another , and human nature being what it tends to be , for the most part , simply can not resist a swipe at what ought to be the forbidden fruit . The public schools will never - ever address the fatal nature of the debt serpent lurking everywhere in society , as the system requires debt slaves in order to maintain the status quo , and the public " education " system must do it's part in greasing the wheels of prosperity for the few . Proof positive of this sickness are the staggering , and growing numbers of young people who have been tricked into the horrific student loan debt scam . Shylock himself could not have devised a more insidious and egregious manner by which to enslave generations of young naïve people who are simply trying to build for themselves a better life . Financial education infused with a healthy dose of good old fashioned common sense must be taught in the home , provided of course that the child's parents are in possession of common sense and at least a modicum of financial aplomb . Benjamin Franklin's , Poor Richard's Almanac should be a must read for all young people ---- along with William Shakespere's , Merchant of Venice .


Henry David Thoreau exclaimed, "Show me the farmer who actually owns his farm." He went on to point out that family farms were nothing more than the instruments by which successive generations of "farmers" became something entirely different: The impoverished, degraded debt slaves who were condemned, upon inheriting the family farm, to a lifetime of sweat, labour and an early death, in service to the banks, generation upon generation. And, that was 160 years ago. This proposition of eternal debt(and war) is nothing new. The marvel is that most Americans have not yet got on to it.

The same thing applies to our federal government debt, about which there is a megaphone full of demagogic nonsense and lies which continue to entrance Americans. Those who are most responsible for this debt(not yet actually very large)continue to bleat about too much spending, a propaganda spiel which provides cover for the Randian illiterates who seek always to thwart the wishes of the great majority of the American people. There is not too much spending. There is too little revenue to cover the expenditures that the congress perpetually makes in accordance with majority will.

There is some inefficiency(DOD) and some unnecessary spending(DOD) to be sure; however, the perennial bogeyman of waste, fraud and abuse actually accounts for very little. The real problem is that elected officials want to feather their election nests by providing the programs that Americans want and putting them on the tab of future generations, so that contemporary voters do not have to pay for them. In this effort, the word "taxes" has been propagandized to mean something evil; thus, election campaigns can gain points by promising "Read my lips. No new taxes." All of this is nothing but a fig leaf to cover the excesses of the now monstrous financial sector and the ruinous inequalities of income and wealth now oxidizing the iron of American democracy


If high schools and parents would just teach kids to balance a checkbook and manage a four-line budget, they'd have more financial savvy than they have now.

BTW I've known of several farmers who sold out to developers or large farm corporations and actually got wealthy because they had NOT been carrying much debt on their property. Give some credit to the guys who have managed the family farm and finances well.

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