Financial literacy has been required as a part of the 21st-Century Skills portion of the Iowa Core for years. But specifics on enforcing the standard are fuzzy, so personal finance and economics classes vary wildly district to district.
Bob Mantell is the director of the T.S. Institute, an organization dedicated to financial literacy for K-12 students, that's based in Treynor, a southwestern Iowa city of about 1,000 people. His organization puts banks in schools so that kids can get first-hand experience with money. Some kids serve as tellers, others deposit money in a savings account.
"Really what we're trying to do is get these students to create savings habits and then hopefully they'll carry that on throughout their lives."
Mantell says programs like this are particularly important because financial lessons are hard to learn without practical experience.
"In most cases, a lot of this content is very theoretical and until they get older, they don't have an opportunity to practically apply it. So we think that if parents give them that opportunity and have those discussions, it provides greater relevance to the content."
The program started six years ago, and they now have over 80,000 dollars saved.
On this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Mantell about teaching children to save. Jonathan Fox, Director of the Financial Counseling Clinic and Ruth Whipp Sherwin Professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, and Barb Wollan, Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance with Iowa State University extension and outreach, also join the conversation.