Meanwhile, his father’s small insurance company also started losing clients, forcing the family to become more frugal. “When our parents are worrying, that transfers onto us,” Karlin says.
According to a 2011 study commissioned by Charles Schwab, 93 percent of teens ages 16 to 18 say their families have been affected by the recession. Even students at Walter Johnson, whose student body is mostly upper-middle-class, have reported that their parents have been canceling vacations, buying in bulk and clipping coupons. And because of that, young people’s attitudes toward money have begun to change. According to the Schwab study, high percentages say they are more grateful for what they have and are less likely to ask for things they want today than in 2007.
Coming of age in the great recession has made students more aware of financial concerns, but it hasn’t provided them the tools to be more financially responsible.
Local educators have recognized this, and in September, Virginia became the fourth state (alongside Tennessee, Utah and Missouri) to implement a mandatory class in personal finance and economics for all incoming freshmen. And Maryland just became one of 21 states to adopt an “integrated” approach to teaching these subjects, folding them into social studies and math.
(The District established a Financial Literacy Council in 2008 with the goal of introducing financial literacy in schools, but the council is still recruiting members. A handful of D.C. schools teach the subject on their own.)
Still, it’s unclear whether these various approaches to financial education will make kids more responsible than their parents. “We need to see much more education and research to know what’s effective,” says Laura Levine, president and chief executive of Jump$tart, an umbrella organization that publishes the national standards for personal finance education. “This is a very young discipline.”
A student at Marshall High School in Falls Church stands awkwardly at the front of the room.
“Tell me about earnings per share,” says Terence Mayo, who teaches the personal finance and economics (PFE) class at the Fairfax County school.
The teenager begins to peek at the “smart board” behind her, where her homework answer — definition and real-world example — dangles like a lifeline.
“Without looking!” Mayo intones.
The student mumbles her answer — unintelligible to the kids in the back of the room — and meekly returns to her seat. The class seems a little bored.