Hero Image

Money Talks: Program improves financial literacy of teens

The Issue

Teenagers' financial illiteracy is a current and growing national family economic trend and concern in the United States. Teens have access to and spend a great deal of money each year. A survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited indicates that today’s teens spend $179 billion annually (2006). In addition to personal spending, many teens purchase food and other items to be used by the entire family. The concern about teen financial illiteracy is supported by a national money management test of high school seniors that revealed an average score of 48.3%, a failing grade by standard grading systems (Jump$tart Coalition, 2008). High school seniors have little knowledge of money management, savings, investments, income and spending. The vast majority of students aged 16 to 22 have never taken a class in personal finance, with two-thirds admitting that they could benefit from more lessons on money management. Alarmingly, 9% were rolling over credit card debit each month (ASEC, 1999).

What Has ANR Done?

A team of University of California Cooperative Extension advisors created Money Talks -- a financial literacy curriculum that appeals to teenagers. The purpose of Money Talks is to increase the financial literacy of teens to help them make fiscally sound decisions in today’s and future marketplaces. Based on a California needs assessment of 323 teens, this fun and interactive money management curriculum addresses what and how teens said they want to learn about money. Tapping the diverse ways of teen learning, Money Talks is hands-on, interactive, online and available in English and Spanish. It is composed of 10 colorful teen guides, 10 comprehensive leader’s guides, 3 DVDs, and an interactive Web site with games and videos (http://www.moneytalks.ucr.edu). Topics include money personalities, easy ways to save, car buying, credit, banking, food buying and shopping savvy. Teachers have access to a special section containing leader’s guides for each teen guide with additional handouts, activities and visuals to help engage students in the topic. The program is currently used throughout California, in 47 other states and in 14 countries. New materials about working and privacy are in development.

The Payoff

Teens gain financial knowledge, improve financial habits

Money Talks is helping teens improve financial literacy and behavior. Teens completing the Money Talks curriculum showed a statistically significant knowledge gain and a positive change in money management behavior. After taking part in the Money Talks program, teens were more likely to have identified their values related to money, spent their money based on their values and identified easy ways to save money. The teens learned the safest way to deposit cash, their rights if checks are stolen, the cost of credit, what to ask when loan shopping, and that paying bills on time is the most important issue in establishing credit. Positive behavior change includes a willingness to talk with their families about family finances, save some money before spending, and select a credit card based on annual fee, minimum payment and parent recommendation.


Supporting Unit:

Consumer Economics Program--UCR, Alameda County, Kern County, Los Angeles County, San Luis Obispo County, News & Information Outreach in Spanish
Connie Costello,(951)323-2730, clcostello@ucanr.edu