The Honorable Charles D. Baker
Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts State House Room 360
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Governor Baker:
We write today asking for continued leadership in one of the issues facing the Commonwealth that is truly the definition of long-term investment with a low upfront cost: bringing quality financial literacy education to every child in the state. The far-reaching benefits for the students, their families, and the state will improve lives for generations, and with April being Financial Literacy Month, we couldn’t think of a better time to call attention to this issue.
In your two terms as Governor of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth has enjoyed historic accomplishments. Your leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic has been exceptional. You have helped get Massachusettsans back to work, led changes to help low-income households in the Commonwealth, and attacked other challenges like vaccine distribution and mental health head-on. Time and again, you’ve confronted crisis and beaten it back.
We have another crisis of financial health to tackle, and we believe improving financial literacy education in our schools is the solution. You’ve been an integral part of the progress the state has taken so far, signing legislation in 2019 to authorize the incorporation of financial literacy standards into school curriculum and empowering the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to review standards and assess programs, but there is still much we can do.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has included $250,000 in grant funding in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which we regard as a very encouraging step forward. These funds would provide crucial training for teachers and enforce the idea that financial literacy is a priority for the Commonwealth, a strong statement that we consider the financial savvy of our kids a priority. We respectfully encourage you, especially given the state’s improved fiscal status, to support these funds as you consider the budget.
Financial literacy is one of the greatest advantages we can bestow upon the youth of Massachusetts, as vital to their education as reading or math for a well-rounded classroom experience. As we continue to grapple with the consequences of the global pandemic, and rising inflation, punctuated by soaring prices on everyday goods like groceries and gas, understanding how to prudently manage one’s finances may be what makes the difference between success and ruin for young adults just entering the workforce. Instilling strong financial habits at a very young age will help ensure younger generations are equipped to handle tomorrow’s fiscal challenges.
In our new report, Massachusetts Financial Literacy Fitness Report, we share that across the country many families aren’t prepared for even minor financial emergencies. More than half can’t cover a $1,000 emergency expense with savings and roughly 20% of all workers can’t make it from paycheck to paycheck without coming up short.
In the Commonwealth we see similar results. According to our report, the average consumer debt in Massachusetts, in 2020, was $115,671, significantly higher than any other state in New England. In 2019, the average Massachusetts family had a credit card balance of $6,213 and the state sees 154 personal bankruptcy filings per 100,000 people each year. These indicators often correlate with shortfalls in financial literacy, and aren’t glowing testimonials for the Commonwealth, especially considering its record of academic excellence. The truth is, when it comes to preparing our young people to deal with the growing complexity of their financial futures, we are leaving a lot on the table, and that does our state and our students a disservice.
We believe the time to act is now. At FitMoney, we’ve developed and continue to improve a free curriculum designed to support financial literacy in the classroom, and we’re working on new products we expect to release this Spring that will focus on introducing and reinforcing smart money behaviors in a game geared toward kids from 5 to 11 years old. We are doing our part to provide access to these materials at no cost, but we can’t do this alone. We need strong leadership that will demand financial literacy curriculum not just as an option, but a priority, and not just for the lucky few but for all students.
For many of these kids, financial literacy is an equity issue, standing alongside others like environmental justice or access to quality transportation. Only 4.9% of Massachusetts students are guaranteed to take a personal finance course, meaning that the other 95 percent are operating with little knowledge when they get their bank account, credit card, or student loan. Leaving it to parents to get kids smart about their money would only perpetuate already vexing throughlines of inequity that last generations.
We urge you to continue to shine a light on this issue and to encourage leaders in the state legislature to take further action on financial literacy education to ensure the young people of this state—all of them—are prepared for success in life.
Executive Director, FitMoney
Massachusetts Financial Literacy Fitness Report
CC: The Honorable James A. Peyser
Secretary, Executive Office of Education
The Honorable Ronald J. Mariano
Speaker, Massachusetts House of Representatives
The Honorable Karen E. Spilka President, Massachusetts Senate
The Honorable Jason M. Lewis
Senate Chair, Joint Committee on Education
The Honorable Sal N. DiDomenico
Senate Vice Chair, Joint Committee on Education
The Honorable Alice H. Peisch
House Chair, Joint Committee on Education
The Honorable Steven Ultrino
House Vice Chair, Joint Committee on Education
The Honorable Patrick M. O'Connor
Senate Ranking Minority, Joint Committee on Education