Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Get 'Em While They're Young?

Research from the University of Arizona shows that high school and college students who are exposed to cumulative financial education show an increase in financial knowledge, which in turn drives increasingly responsible financial behavior as they become young adults.

As part of a study called Arizona Pathways for Life Success in University Students, or APLUS, researchers surveyed more than 1,500 students and drop-outs four years after they entered the University of Arizona in the fall of 2007.

Results show that parents, more than any other factor, exert the most influence over their children when it comes to developing positive financial attitudes and behaviors – 1.5 times more than continuing financial education and more than twice as much as what young people hear from their friends.

I'm more and more coming down on the "nature" side of the nature/nurture debate, and the importance of parents (read "genes") here is interesting to me.

My mother and her whole side of the family were terrible with money, a failing that seems to go back generations, according to my genealogy research.

My father, on the other hand, came from a long line of thrifty (I won't say cheap) Eastern European Jews. "Money goes through my fingers like cement," he used to say, only half-joking.

I was raised primarily by my mother and didn't get a particularly responsible example of personal finances from her, to say the least. However, since I started working at age 15, I've been a natural saver and cautious about spending. 

My siblings split, with one similar to Dad and one following in Mom's footsteps (he does have great taste and gorgeous things, I'll give him that!).

So yes, I'm a big proponent of financial education. In fact, my Smart Answers column this week is on a nonprofit that teaches kids about finances and entrepreneurship. But I think at least some - if not most - of the way we handle money is hard-wired and pretty tough to change, no matter how much teaching we do.  


  1. It's a little scary, isn't it? My mother constantly panicked about money and my father never paid much attention to it. I'm trying very hard not to father either one, but my mother was a strong influence in our family!

  2. My parents paid me, then my siblings, a small allowance each month to balance a household checkbook. This taught me a lot before I reached the age of 18, and it set a great example.

  3. I went to a lecture on twin research recently and the power of the genetic input is pretty awesome, I'll tell you that much!

    What's scary is the indeterminism and the random nature of the roll-of-the-dice output we all get when it comes to physical traits (85% of the twins had shared body size/shape even if they were not identical) and even things like hobbies, preferences and personal quirks.

  4. What a great idea, Elyse! I love that one.