Thousands of Maine teenagers will soon be graduating from high school, and regardless of whether they’re going on to college, the military or the workplace, they’ll need to know how to manage their money. But not every senior has had those lessons by the time they get their diploma. That’s why we’re glad to learn that legislation is in the works to make financial education a graduation requirement in all Maine high schools – and to help young people avoid expensive lessons later on.

Financial topics are part of Maine’s educational standards, and schools are required to teach students how to manage money and debt. So Maine earned a B in high school personal finance education from Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, which surveyed all 50 states and presented the results in a report last year. But this might be a case of grade inflation: Maine teens aren’t required to study personal finance to graduate.

That could change, thanks to a several-time Maine Teacher of the Year nominee. Ami Amero, who’s been teaching financial topics for about 10 years at Forest Hills Consolidated School in Jackman, is working with the Maine Department of Education, the Finance Authority of Maine and others to draft a bill mandating financial education for every Maine high school graduate.

We support these efforts to provide a solid foundation for Maine’s young people as they prepare to make their own way in the world. Those pursuing postsecondary education need to understand how they’re going to pay for college and how much their major will influence their post-college earning level. Teens going into the workforce should be equipped to make decisions about finding and keeping a job and paying for rent, groceries and utilities. Young service members, who are making financial decisions on their own and, often, far from home, have to be schooled in how not to squander their first significant paychecks.

A shaky background in personal finance plays out in any number of ways, numerous studies have concluded. Compared to their more- educated peers, consumers with lower levels of financial literacy are more easily influenced by promotions for high-cost payday loans and high-interest credit cards and mortgages. They’re also more likely to run up debt and less likely to have a retirement plan or a cushion of savings.

Details of the financial education graduation mandate are still to come, but we embrace the proposal’s basic outline. The more Maine teens know about money, the better equipped they’ll be for the adult lives they’re now starting – and all of us can only benefit.


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