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Oklahomans’ financial literacy can use work

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Writing in The Oklahoman last fall, former state Treasurer Scott Meacham noted the importance of improving financial literacy particularly among the state’s younger set. A recent report helps to drive home that point.

According to a survey by the website WalletHub, Oklahoma ranks 46th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in the category of “Most Financially Literate States.” Put another way, only five other locales in this country are less financially literate.

The survey focused on the practices of adults — those 18 and older — but did grade the financial literacy of high schoolers. On that front Oklahoma placed 25th, which is encouraging given how much improvement is needed among older Oklahomans.

According to WalletHub, Oklahoma is 50th — one spot above dead last — in the percentage of adults with rainy day funds. Oklahoma ranks 48th in the percentage of adults who pay only the monthly minimum on their credit card (or cards). The state ranks 38th in the percentage of “unbanked” households, or those that don’t have a bank account or have one, but still use financial services outside the banking system to help make ends meet. Indeed, Oklahoma ranks fourth-highest in the share of adults borrowing from nonbank lenders.

Oklahoma fares a little better (28th) in the percentage of adults who compare credit cards before applying for one. And, it’s No. 20 in the percentage of adults who spend more than they earn.

The state’s rankings are disconcerting, but the truth is millions of Americans across the country, and in all age ranges, struggle in this area. WalletHub noted that 2018 ended with $67 billion in new credit card debt, and only 40 percent of adults have a budget.

Last year, the National Financial Capability Study found that 63 percent of American adults can’t pass a financial literacy test. Another report found that 20 percent of American teens lack basic financial literacy skills.

It falls to the younger generation to help move the needle in a better direction. The good news is that help is available.

Meacham mentioned the Personal Financial Literacy PASSPORT initiative, which requires students take courses and show financial literacy before they can graduate. Topics covered include saving, paying rent, earning an income and credit card debt.

An online financial literacy called Mind Your Own Budget is offered to (and used by) schools statewide through the University of Oklahoma K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal. Banks and other institutions in the state offer financial literacy classes for students.

Meacham wrote that financial literacy “isn’t child’s play, but Oklahoma will be stronger if all our young people get in the game.” It’s a point worth remembering.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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