The following column is provided to DeSoto County News by state Treasurer David McRae.
By Treasurer David McRae
Today’s young people have a lot working against them financially. When they graduate from high school, most must decide between entering a work environment plagued by record-high inflation or starting life deeply in debt by earning a college degree.
If they want to purchase a home, they’ll run into skyrocketing housing costs topped by historic mortgage interest rates. If they want to purchase a car, they’ll be faced with a $33,341 bill on average (and that’s if they’re buying a used vehicle!) When they go to fill their gas tank, they’ll likely face higher pump prices too, as a result of America’s abandonment of domestic energy sources. It’s a lot to navigate, making financial education more important than ever before.
October is National Economic Education Month. The good news is that unlike most states, Mississippi requires every student to take an economics class before their high school graduation. Requiring teenagers to pass such a course is critical when considering the ease with which a person can be buried in tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt before their 25th birthday.
In fact, the average Mississippi college student graduates with $33,182 worth of student loan debt, according to LendingTree. And for most, that won’t be the only debt they carry. According to a study conducted by AIG Retirement Services and EVERFI, 40 percent of students have more than $1,000 in credit card debt. That’s a lot for an inexperienced adult to manage responsibly – and a good argument for why we must continue to advocate for personal and general economics courses within our high schools.
Of course, that’s not the only argument for greater financial education. The Council for Economic Education writes: “[Economics] helps explain choices big and small – from whether to make or buy lunch to whether to manufacture or import resources.” This kind of macro- and micro-economic know-how is exactly what our country needs today. And that’s true regardless of where one’s future takes them.
The Council continues: “Whether your passion is protecting the environment, reducing childhood obesity, making college affordable, or managing the federal debt, seeing your problem through an economic lens will help you understand the issue and identify potential solutions.”
That said, schools shouldn’t bear sole responsibility for Americans’ individual economic stewardship. We have to take personal responsibility in this as well. That’s why your State Treasury built a series of tools to help families improve their financial wellness and share that knowledge with their children. Visit Treasury.MS.gov/FinancialEducation to learn more.
Additionally, your State Treasury offers college savings opportunities that help insulate young people from the student loan debt discussed above. Please visit Treasury.MS.gov/CollegeSavings to find a plan that will work for you.
Mississippi Treasurer David McRae is the 55th Treasurer for the State of Mississippi. In this role, he helps manage the state’s cash flow, oversees College Savings Mississippi, and has returned more than $60 million in unclaimed money to Mississippians. For more information, visit Treasury.MS.gov.