Chart: Are Today’s Students Prepared to Make Financial Decisions?
Are Today’s Students Prepared to Make Financial Decisions?
The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.
In the “old days”, personal finance seemed so much more straightforward.
Wages were good enough so that almost anyone could save, and the power of compound interest did the rest. At the same time, it was cheap to get into the housing market, people were more conscious about debt, and the stock market was a no-brainer.
In today’s world, it’s not always so easy. Ultra-low interest rates have fueled a boom in debt and asset prices, making everything from houses to stocks very expensive. Meanwhile, students have accumulated $1.45 trillion in student debt, and grads will be squeezed for years attempting to pay it all off.
The Bold New World
In this challenging new landscape of personal finance, future generations would likely benefit from learning the basics around saving, making budgets, and investing, as well as how to evaluate major personal finance decisions like buying a home or paying for a college education.
Today’s chart looks at one facet of this, which is the percentage of high schools that currently require some sort of personal finance course to graduate.
Using data from a study by financial literacy non-profit Next Gen Personal Finance, it’s clear that the vast majority of students in the U.S. are not required to learn these basic skills and concepts – and things are particularly worse off in lower-income communities.
Access to Financial Literacy
After analyzing data from high schools representing over 85% of all students, the main conclusions of the study were as follows:
- Only 16.4% of U.S. students are required to take a personal finance course to graduate high school.
- Five states do have a personal finance requirement: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.
- But outside of these states, the proportion of students with a personal finance requirement drops to 8.6%.
- Meanwhile, only 5.5% of low income schools (outside of mandate states) have personal finance as a requirement.
Why is this important?
To understand why financial literacy is important, look no further than the most recent grad class: millennials.
With $1.45 trillion in student debt, millennials find themselves in a tough spot to begin with – but 45% regret even taking out loans to that extent in the first place. At the same time, only 24% of the generation demonstrates “basic” financial knowledge, while 70% are already stressed about saving for retirement.
A better financial education could definitely help change some of these figures, whether it is through schools, or through vastly improved online resources that students access on their own volition.
De-Dollarization: Countries Seeking Alternatives to the U.S. Dollar
The U.S. dollar is the dominant currency in the global financial system, but some countries are following the trend of de-dollarization.
De-Dollarization: Countries Seeking Alternatives to U.S. Dollar
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The U.S. dollar has dominated global trade and capital flows over many decades.
However, many nations are looking for alternatives to the greenback to reduce their dependence on the United States.
This graphic catalogs the rise of the U.S. dollar as the dominant international reserve currency, and the recent efforts by various nations to de-dollarize and reduce their dependence on the U.S. financial system.
The Dollar Dominance
The United States became, almost overnight, the leading financial power after World War I. The country entered the war only in 1917 and emerged far stronger than its European counterparts.
As a result, the dollar began to displace the pound sterling as the international reserve currency and the U.S. also became a significant recipient of wartime gold inflows.
The dollar then gained a greater role in 1944, when 44 countries signed the Bretton Woods Agreement, creating a collective international currency exchange regime pegged to the U.S. dollar which was, in turn, pegged to the price of gold.
By the late 1960s, European and Japanese exports became more competitive with U.S. exports. There was a large supply of dollars around the world, making it difficult to back dollars with gold. President Nixon ceased the direct convertibility of U.S. dollars to gold in 1971. This ended both the gold standard and the limit on the amount of currency that could be printed.
Although it has remained the international reserve currency, the U.S. dollar has increasingly lost its purchasing power since then.
Russia and China’s Steps Towards De-Dollarization
Concerned about America’s dominance over the global financial system and the country’s ability to ‘weaponize’ it, other nations have been testing alternatives to reduce the dollar’s hegemony.
As the United States and other Western nations imposed economic sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow and the Chinese government have been teaming up to reduce reliance on the dollar and to establish cooperation between their financial systems.
Since the invasion in 2022, the ruble-yuan trade has increased eighty-fold. Russia and Iran are also working together to launch a cryptocurrency backed by gold, according to Russian news agency Vedmosti.
In addition, central banks (especially Russia’s and China’s) have bought gold at the fastest pace since 1967 as countries move to diversify their reserves away from the dollar.
How Other Countries are Reducing Dollar Dependence
De-dollarization it’s a theme in other parts of the world:
- In recent months, Brazil and Argentina have discussed the creation of a common currency for the two largest economies in South America.
- In a conference in Singapore in January, multiple former Southeast Asian officials spoke about de-dollarization efforts underway.
- The UAE and India are in talks to use rupees to trade non-oil commodities in a shift away from the dollar, according to Reuters.
- For the first time in 48 years, Saudi Arabia said that the oil-rich nation is open to trading in currencies besides the U.S. dollar.
Despite these movements, few expect to see the end of the dollar’s global sovereign status anytime soon. Currently, central banks still hold about 60% of their foreign exchange reserves in dollars.
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