We Know that We Don’t Know Enough

Personal stories of financial literacy and the fear Stuyvesant students have of their lack of preparedness for the real world.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Stefanie Chen:

From a study of more than 1,000 American adults, only one in five people felt that they were sufficiently educated about finances in school, meaning 80 percent of Americans lack basic financial literacy. Despite the importance of financial education, it isn’t part of the core curriculum or emphasized at most schools—including Stuyvesant. In my household, finance is a regular topic due to my parent’s interest and frequent investment in major financial outlets such as the stock market and cryptocurrencies. I had always assumed that knowing what a credit score is or the difference between credit and debit was common knowledge. However, many families aren’t as proactive as my parents are in the world of finance, and as a result, school is one of the only other places for most people to receive this financial literacy. If schools were to implement an official financial literacy class, I would really like to see it teach topics such as personal, corporate, and public finance. The world runs on an understanding of finance to move up and down the economic social ladder. Stuyvesant needs to bring financial education to its students so they’re not only intellectually capable but also financially literate.

Erica Li:

Going to school at Stuyvesant often makes me forget about how the majority of America lives. Here, we live in a tiny bubble—one where all that is expected of us is to graduate, go to a well-known college, and get a high-paying, professional job. Students getting a GED to go into trade professions or taking on a small family business are practically unheard of. Yet despite most student’s high-achieving goals, many of us haven’t even worked our first job or begun to understand the inner workings of finance.

Stuyvesant teaches us how to survive college, but not how to survive life. Most of us have no clue what taxes, savings, and investments actually are—myself included. Having immigrant parents who can barely handle their own finances means that I do not have any opportunity to even be aware of such topics. With the dozens of questions asking about your financial state in the financial aid forms, I am uninformed about how to apply for college. I am not alone in this, either. Many of my friends who also have immigrant parents are just as worried about this.

Getting high school students comfortable with the subject of money and aware of the terms surrounding personal finance is incredibly important, whether it is specifically tailored to college or simply for life in general. It is important to build a foundation for students, especially high school students, to gain knowledge about money and to avoid mistakes that they cannot take back once they start making their own financial decisions. Stuyvesant needs to do a better job of properly educating its students in all aspects of life, not just academic.

Muhib Muhib:

Stuyvesant can best be described as a college preparatory school. From the moment students are thrusted in, they are prepared for the rigor and difficulty of college. Many students take college-level courses from the very first day of school here and survive on a mere few hours of sleep per weekday.

Stuyvesant prepares its students well for college, but Stuyvesant’s impact appears to be minimal beyond the college level. A student is well prepared for college but is dependent on the college they attend for being prepared for the complexity that is life. Even during college, skills related to financial literacy are essential to survival. A Stuyvesant student can be completely unprepared for the financial skills necessary in college, so financial literacy education must be offered.

Ushoshi Das:

My father came to the United States with only $20 in his pocket and a scholarship. This is why, from a very young age, I have known that college is expensive and that we need to save for it. My sister is going to college next year, so in the past few years, my family has been talking a lot about budgeting. Thus, we regularly discuss income, how much of that goes to tax, and how our college funds work.

We also talk regularly about things like healthcare and insurance—a good chunk of us have autoimmune disorders, and we need different medications and doctors visits for those. We did briefly cover insurance in health class, but because there was so much else in the curriculum, the lesson felt a bit rushed.

There are other things that I have never been taught in school, and though my parents have tried to explain them to me, it would really help to learn them formally in school. I only really know about things like student loans in terms of the process my dad went through for international students around 35 years ago. There are other types of loans that I know vaguely about, such as mortgages, but I cannot explain the different types of mortgage loans (and the calculations for rates). I can tell you that it’s better to have a good credit score to get a loan, but I can’t tell you why. I barely know what a credit score even is, and I am sure that I cannot explain it. I know a bit about the stock market—my father has shown me how stock investments work—but it’s so complicated that it would really help to discuss how people make actual careers out of this.