Personal finances are a public concern — and now education is a must

Personal finances are a public concern — and now education is a must

2022-07-13T06:22:39-04:00March 30th, 2022|Economy, Education, Florida, Tampa Bay|

Writer: Alejandro Sanchez 

Personal finances2 min read March 2022— For years, leaders in the public and private sectors have advocated for the promotion of financial literacy among younger generations. Now that high-school students in Florida are required to pass a personal finance course upon graduation, the expectation is for an improvement in various financial indicators, including bankruptcies and credit card debt.

Florida’s House and Senate earlier this month unanimously passed the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law last week. Starting in the school year 2023-2024, high schools will teach students the difference between different bank accounts, how to manage debit and credit cards, how to apply for a loan, how to do taxes, and other relevant concepts to keep their personal finances healthy. 

Federal Judge Catherine McEwen was one of the original advocates for introducing financial literacy classes in high schools. McEwen oversees bankruptcy cases for the Middle District of Florida, which includes Tampa Bay, Orlando, Jacksonville, Ocala, Daytona and Fort Myers. As the third-busiest bankruptcy court in the county, McEwen’s district saw 6,673 opens PDF file filings just in the Tampa Bay region in 2021, the highest number in the district and in the state. 

“You can see that Floridians, generally speaking, are not financially literate,” said Judge McEwen after the passage of the bill. “We would like the folks in Florida to be educated to the extent that we don’t have a job anymore.”

Another indicator to keep an eye on is credit card debt. According to a study by the website WalletHub, the average Tampa Bay resident in 2019 had a median credit card debt of $2,549, which represented one of the worst among major cities in the United States. The website also concluded that households in Florida have an average credit card debt of $9,278, the highest after Texas and California. 

“Credit card debt statistics speak to the financial health of American households,” the WalletHub report said. “They can also foreshadow over-borrowing bubbles, changes to lending standards and other trends with the potential to impact our wallets.”

Finally, credit scores are also relevant to financial literacy. According to the website Investopedia, Florida had an average FICO credit score of 706, meaning that the state falls into the category of “good” in this indicator. 

“Consumers have never had more access to financial information than they do today yet financial literacy is still a challenge,” said Sutton Wealth Advisors owner Ed Sutton, during an interview with Invest:. “Unfortunately, information and data without context and knowledge helps no one and much of what passes for financial education in the media is designed to evoke emotion and fear and is more harmful than helpful. But the desire to learn is there.”