After making a financial literacy course a high school graduation mandate, local officials now are setting their sights on continuing to make sure Kentuckians know how to manage their money.
Last week, Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, filed House Bill 139, which would create a Kentucky Financial Empowerment Commission. The commission would be tasked “to develop and implement a plan toward increasing financial empowerment for all Kentuckians,” including K-12 students, state government workers, military veterans, those under the poverty line, those with disabilities and retirees. The commission would be funded by private donations.
Last year, DuPlessis sponsored House Bill 132, which made high school students take a financial literacy course before they graduate beginning with students entering ninth grade during the 2020-21 school year.
“We’re teaching our kids how to use math, but not how to apply it,” DuPlessis said.
He said when people know how to manage their money and get out of debt, it is a good thing.
“That only helps Kentucky’s economy,” DuPlessis said.
Fort Knox Federal Credit Union, along with many other Kentucky credit unions, will be a few of the sponsors of the commission.
“It is a big opportunity for high school students to help propel the entire state forward by achieving higher financial literacy rates,” said Ray Springsteen, CEO of Fort Knox Federal in a news release. “Our credit union is committed to helping all Kentuckians become more financially independent. Educational programs, like this one, are the first step.”
Although financial literacy will become a mandate for some high school students in the future, many area students already are taking advantage of local opportunities.
Alex Todd teaches financial literacy at Elizabethtown High School. Todd said one of the reasons financial literacy is important to him is because of the financial issues many Americans face.
According to a recent CareerBuilder report, 78 percent of Americans said they live paycheck to paycheck. Seventy percent of college students graduate with debt, according to CNBC and 78 percent of Americans say they’re “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about not having enough money for retirement, according to a Northwestern Mutual study.
“There’s only one way to turn that around and that’s to give young people a foundation of how money works,” said Todd, who supported HB 132 last year.
He said he has received numerous calls, including people from other states.
“I’ve got an appointment – phone appointment – (today) with a lady in New York that’s interested in sponsoring a bill in New York,” Todd said.
He said it was “awesome” that Kentucky’s legislation can possibly be a model for other states.
On Tuesday, Todd was teaching his students about Roth IRA and 401K retirement plans. He said that is only a small portion of what he teaches.
“We go through everything,” he said. “Back to the old days of how to write a check all the way up through doing something like a Roth and everything in between.”
One student in Todd’s financial literacy class, junior Whitney Hay, said the class is one of the most valuable she is taking.
“It’s just helping prepare us for the real world,” she said. “It actually shows us what we need to do in life.”
The Kentucky General Assembly reconvenes Feb. 5.