Students Graduate with Diplomas, but Little Knowledge of 'Real World' Finances

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Personal Finance Instructions

Parents of high school and college students rank personal finance high on the list of important conversations to have with their children. In fact, nearly as many parents discuss money management with their teens as sex, drugs, alcohol and academic excellence, according to a new survey by The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc.

Although more than three quarters (76.5 percent) of parents surveyed in the nationally representative sample said they have had a thorough discussion of personal financial issues with their high school and college students, a majority also said they would like to see the subject taught in school. Of the 60 percent of parents who reported their children having had no classroom instruction in personal finance, 88 percent said they thought the topic should be taught.

It appears as though those lessons may indeed be needed: Four out of five high school seniors have not taken a personal finance class, according to the Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy. Moreover, on a 2006 test of their basic knowledge of personal financial management, high school seniors correctly answered only 52.4 percent of questions.

"With credit card offers seemingly lurking on every corner, it's critical that students understand the significance of credit - and the perils of debt," said John Diehl, a vice president and certified financial planner with The Hartford. "High school and college students should have a solid grasp of basic financial concepts like interest, compounding, job benefits, and saving for retirement, in order to plan for a successful future."

Free Personal Finance Resources Available

Rather than wait for school to start incorporating personal finance into the curriculum, parents can get help imparting these important life lessons with a free Playbook for Life guidebook from The Hartford, which can be ordered or downloaded at Not surprisingly, a significant number of requests for the guidebook have already come from parents looking for a practical, easy-to-read explanation of sometimes complex financial topics to share with their children.

New Playbook Webinar on Personal Finance

Also available at is a new Webinar that brings to life such topics as planning for success, real world salaries and expenses, the importance of credit, and types of savings and investment vehicles. Each video module includes links to additional information and resources, such as a budget worksheet and cost-of-living calculator.


The Playbook for Life materials provide several useful tips for students starting to think about their financial future:

  • Benefits Boost the Bottom Line: When evaluating job offers, analyze not only the salary but the benefits, including health insurance and retirement plans, to get a full picture of the total compensation package. Also consider the cost of living in the region where the job is located.

  • Delete High Interest Debt: This includes high-interest credit cards or any other interest that is higher than what you might be earning on savings.

  • Get in a Good Credit Zone: Pay your bills on time, including your student loans. Bad credit can prevent you from buying a house or car, or furthering your education in the future.

  • Pay Yourself First: Start saving for retirement as soon as possible. Small, consistent savings in your 20s will grow and have a much greater impact than waiting until your 30s or 40s.

  • Minimize to Maximize Money: Keep housing and transportation costs low during the first year after graduation to help save money. If possible, live at home for a year or rent a modest apartment, perhaps with a roommate. Buy an economy car or use public transportation.

The guidebook and Web site are part of the national education program called Playbook for Life, created by The Hartford, working closely with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Originally designed to help student-athletes gain a solid understanding of personal finance, the program has proven to be valuable for all students thinking about life in the "real world." The Playbook for Life program also features visits to college campuses by members of "Team Hartford" - a select group of former student-athletes who have succeeded in both sports and non-athletic careers, and want to share their own personal stories and financial lessons learned.

"It's never too soon to start thinking about your financial future," said Team Hartford Captain Allen Pinkett, former University of Notre Dame All-American running back who played for the NFL's Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints before joining The Hartford. "There's not a college student around who couldn't use a little practical advice on how to better manage his or her finances. I wish this type of program was available when I was in school."

The Playbook for Life program has brought its financial planning message to student-athletes at Columbia, Duke, and Rice Universities, the University of Hartford, Saint Joseph's University, St. Louis University and the University of Denver. Based on the initial success of the program, additional campus events are being planned for this fall and spring 2007.

In addition, students everywhere can now watch Pinkett and fellow Team Hartford member Bill Poutre, a professor of entrepreneurship and men's golf coach at the University of Hartford, in the Playbook Webinar. The two share lively stories of their own personal finance successes and lessons learned as a way to help bring home to today's college students and young adults the importance of developing a game plan for their financial future.

The Hartford survey was conducted among 2,245 parents of high school and college students nationwide by Impulse Research in May of 2006. It has a margin of error of 2.5 percent.