Why young adults would benefit from these three financial subjects being taught in schools

One is a millennial. The other is part of Gen Z.

They are aspiring journalists who spent the summer as business reporting interns for USA TODAY.

Though many old codgers (such as their editor) love to roll our eyes and make jokes at their youthful expense, it's often good to know what they are thinking – especially when USA TODAY's Money section did a series of in-depth stories on "Youth Investors."

Here are some insights from Keira Wingate, a student at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; and Mela Seyoum, an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley.

From Wingate:

Reading the stories in the Young Investors series really opened my eyes to the importance of learning great money management and investment skills at a young age. 

Keira Wingate was a USA TODAY summer intern for the Money section. She offers her insights on the Young Investors series.

As someone who grew up homeless for almost half my life, I never felt financially stable until maybe a couple of years ago. Even then, I wasn't always stable. 

Now, I am 25 and living financially independent, something I had to figure out from a young age.

These stories not only made me feel less alone in the lack of financial knowledge, but the series also made clear that these are vital subjects we should be taught while teenagers. 

Instead, our heads are buried in books about the Black Plague, the Spanish flu and much more that, though important, should be balanced with actual life skills. Each story in this series brought such informative knowledge that I, simply put, didn’t know a dang thing about before. 

Millennials make up the highest group investing into crypto.

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Dan Kearns, whose son Alex committed suicide after he thought he had lost a significant amount of money trading options on Robinhood, said it best: “You can’t leave it up to the schools.” 

One of my favorite stories in the series was “Black, Latino, LGBTQ investors see crypto investments like bitcoin as ‘a new path’ to wealth and equity.”

Reading it, I remembered discussing in my business class about Black people not being able to get mortgages and how this racially driven world has led to so many disadvantages for minority groups. 

This piece was fascinating because it put a spotlight on minority groups and how they invest more in crypto than white people. The reasoning goes back to the racial issues that plague this country.

One thing that struck me was the sad reality that minorities feel more comfortable investing in crypto because of their lack of trust in the government and banking. I can’t blame them because white men mostly control the business world. It was a happy surprise to see minorities taking control in the crypto world. 

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Millennials take lead in financial stress 

This leads me to the story “Stocks and teens: Are there enough parental controls as teenagers invest with Fidelity, Wells Fargo?

It did not come as a surprise to me that millennials are the biggest group investing in crypto. I mean, which other group has a combined student debt of $1 trillion? 

It blew my mind to read that “teens control billions of dollars in spending each year,” yet the thought of teaching young people financial literacy is not on the radar of schools. Except for ones in Arizona, where the state treasurer has made it a passion to get financial literacy in public schools. 

I felt the weight of financial stress at the young age of 10 when I started doing a paper route with my family at 1 a.m., just to help make ends meet. Afterward, I would head to my sixth grade classes and brag about how “cool” it was. 

After reading this story, it makes me wonder, would I have found my financial independence sooner if I was taught it in school? I think so. 

The story “Millennial parents join the crypto craze. Should you? Here's what experts say” discussed student debt and how the two recessions shaped young Americans. 

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What older generations don’t seem to understand is when they went to college, working a summer job would have helped cover college tuition. Or they may not comprehend how the federal minimum wage is still $7.25, which makes it almost impossible to rent a two -bedroom apartment or even a studio at most places in the USA.

I was told to be “brutally honest” when writing this review. I wish there was more discussion in high school or from adults regarding student debt and the everlasting hold it has on millennials. 

One quote from the story is spot on to how I feel regarding student debt among my peers:

"Millennials are the bag holders of student debt who’ve been unable to out-earn the liability they took on," says Douglas Boneparth, president of Bone Fide Wealth, a financial adviser. "Even for those who were able to get out from under it, they’ve pushed themselves to the limit to succeed professionally, satisfy that debt, still buy a home and start a family."

Seeing millennials put money into crypto to help build a family and buy a house seems pretty spot on not just for the year 2021 but for decades into the future, so my generation can lower the amount of financial stress and worry. One of the biggest pieces of data revealed in this story proves that millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce but make up only 5% of the wealth. 

401(k): A retirement account offered by an employer that allows employees to save a portion of their salary, lowering their taxable income, which their employers can match. The funds can be used to invest in the financial markets.

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No wonder millennials quit jobs

As I read the other stories in the series such as “Millennials are quitting jobs to become crypto day traders. Here's the risk, reward,” it all began to make more sense.

The story explained the factors at play that would make a millennial quit his or her job to become a day trader. 

It drives me up a wall when I hear people say, “Money can’t buy you happiness.”

That line seems to always come from people who have an abundance of money. It is easy to say money doesn't buy happiness when you have it. For many, it's really about the financial freedom one can get by having money. Less stress and more opportunity is the happiness that most millennials want. 

Many young adults and teens are feeling FOMO (the fear of missing out) and want to get into the crypto craze because gaining any kind of extra money for millennials also gains better peace of mind. Though many are not fully aware of crypto and its risk, it seems that it is a gamble many are willing to take.

To end this think piece from a prime millennial, I can confidently say that I came away knowing more about crypto, financial literacy and banking than I expected. This series does more than simply explain financial definitions; it gave a clear look at data and firsthand experiences. 

It’s time to add financial literacy to school schedules around the world and prepare young people for their futures.

From Seyoum:

As a college student, I have become increasingly more independent, and soon enough, I will solely be responsible for myself, including my own finances.

It’s a daunting task and one that often makes me feel ill-prepared.

The Young Investors series illuminated some of the ways that young people and historically marginalized groups are changing the financial industry and making it work for themselves. 

The series exposed me to more experiences that real people have had with investing and finances, illustrating some of their strategies and challenges they encountered.

All of this applies to me, but I didn’t always know how to use this to my advantage.

Though I wasn’t as knowledgeable about investing and the financial industry, it was definitely something on my mind as I thought about the cost of getting an education in addition to personal expenses.

Learning about investing through the series provided me with more options and financial knowledge than I had thought were available to me.

Unfortunately, a lack of financial knowledge is not uncommon among students. The piece “Stocks and teens: Are there enough parental controls as teenagers invest with Fidelity, Wells Fargo” highlights how nearly 50% of teens rate themselves low in investing knowledge. 

There are also young people such as Whitman Ochiai and Vineel Bhat, who created a podcast and an app centered on finances, making financial knowledge much more accessible to a younger generation. 

The experience of Bhat, whose father immigrated to the USA from India and urged him to learn more about investing, struck me.

My parents immigrated to the USA as well, and as I got older, they often spoke to me about how to make financial decisions and urged me to learn more about it.

I credit them for giving me the foundational understanding of finances that allowed me to learn more.

Another piece in the series, “Black, Latino, LGBTQ  investors see crypto investments like bitcoin as ‘a new path’ to wealth and equity,” was particularly revealing to me as I saw the depth to which people of color and LGBTQ people were getting more involved in investing and finances, a new and exciting thing. 

In most spaces, whether they be academic or social, I have found myself to be one of very few Black people – or the only one. I assumed this would be the case in most financial or banking settings, a feeling echoed among other Black Americans, 43% of whom say they feel the banking and loans industry has treated them unfairly. 

This has led to marginalized groups showing an increased interest in cryptocurrencies, an alternate pathway to investing. While I heard about some of the intensely popular cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, it was refreshing to see how those just starting out in investing utilized them.

The Young Investors series has given me a level of insight into the financial industry through the perspectives of younger people and historically underrepresented groups, which gave me an appreciation for those trying to make the industry more accessible for themselves and others. 

Seeing increased financial independence and knowledge has been heartening and hopeful. Although there are risks and obstacles to successfully investing, I think there’s been a level of progress I would not have expected and want to see continue.