If you haven’t followed my writing up to this point, you might not know that I grew up poor. Although society may try to label me as underprivileged, I wouldn’t say that I was. Due to the generosity of family members and friends — and my own personal gumption — I lived a life that, externally, wasn’t unlike that of my more well-off friends. It wasn’t until you saw our house, our car, or our bank accounts that you would have thought anything of our financial situation.

I grew up in a single-parent household. My mom raised my two younger sisters and I by herself. She didn’t pursue a four-year degree out of high school. But more importantly, she never had any sort of financial education.

Too Few Financial Literacy Programs

Offering financial literacy courses in public schools is not a new idea. People have been pushing for financial education in high schools for decades. The High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP) was founded in the ’80s and has provided funding and course materials for over 100 high schools in the U.S. to start financial literacy classes. This is great, but that’s only 100 out of over 37,000 public and private secondary schools in the United States — less than three-tenths of one percent of our schools. That’s not to say that there aren’t more schools with financial literacy programs in place (seven states include personal finance concepts and skills in their standardized tests). However, the number of schools with financial education is still abysmally low.

Self-Taught Financial Literacy

My home state of Kentucky is one of the many states that didn’t require financial literacy courses while I was in high school. Seeing how difficult it was for my mom to create a budget and plan out her money inspired me to seek out that knowledge on my own.

I was fortunate enough to have developed a knack for money management during my teenage years. But many of my friends didn’t.

So I had to pick up where the schools were lacking and teach many of them the basics about bank accounts, credit cards, and interest. I did the same for my mother. I taught her how to rebuild her credit; helped her open her first checking account in years; and helped her get back onto a financial track that would, at least, improve her chances of not being broke.

Why We Need Financial Literacy Programs

What I demonstrated here, and what I’ve discussed, isn’t unwarranted or uncorrelated. Dr. Lambert Engelbrecht of Stellenbosch University in South Africa highlights the correlations between being poor and the lack of financial literacy education more in-depth in his work published in 2008 titled “The Scope of Financial Literacy Education: A Poverty Alleviation Tool in Social Work?”

All things considered, I think my family would be in a better financial position had my mother received financial education in high school. That knowledge could have helped drive the monetary decisions that she made — as it should do. I’m not sure if we would be leaps and bounds better off, but it couldn’t have hurt. More education and knowledge about your situation is always a useful tool to counteract the forces working against you; and in this case, it could save you from being poor.