Community Development Papers

Early, Broadly, and Through Young Adulthood: A Child Development Perspective on Youth Personal Financial Education

Research suggests that educators should use findings in psychology and behavioral economics to enhance youth personal financial instruction.

Richard M. Todd | Vice President and Advisor to the CICD

Published September 1, 2011

American parents, teachers, and policymakers generally express strong support for personal financial education for high school students, despite a need for further research to determine if such education is effective in improving long-term decision-making capabilities. However, research in related fields such as child development and behavioral economics suggests that personal financial learning begins at an early age and encompasses a broad array of general decision-making skills rather than just narrowly financial topics. This research suggests that educators should take a broad perspective on where and how personal finance is taught and learned and make use of findings in psychology and behavioral economics to enhance instruction. The research also supports the thrust of Minnesota’s proposed new social studies standards, which call for personal finance lessons from the early grades through high school but with flexibility on where and how they are taught.