Letter from Bob Allen
Financial Literacy Task Force Chairman
When it comes to “money smarts,” far too many Vermonters aren’t making the grade. In fact, in a national test of high school financial literacy, the state scored a D – far below the national average. This must change.
Six months ago, John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, assembled a group of state leaders with diverse backgrounds in education, government, business and the nonprofit sector to recommend ways to improve the financial literacy of Vermonters.
From my perspective as a nonprofit CEO (and retired for-profit CEO), parent of a college student and 30-year Vermont resident, it was a daunting task. Vermont’s dismal score in financial literacy, combined with record levels of student debt and an adult population facing a much-reduced lifestyle in retirement, made it clear, though, the time for action is now.
With that in mind, we broke into three separate committees to address the needs of K-12 education, college-age students and the adult population. Each committee was to develop a maximum of five recommendations, all with the same criteria: that the recommendation impacts many Vermonters; and that each recommendation has a high likelihood of being implemented.
Some of the major challenges highlighted in the reports are as follows:
• Financial literacy topics in Vermont’s Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities have not been updated since the year 2000. Today, only seven Vermont high schools have adopted a personal finance graduation requirement.
• High school students make one of the most important financial decisions of their life – whether to attend college – without connecting their field of study with their projected income level on graduation.
• Less than 50 percent of Vermont workers participate in an employment-based retirement plan, and only 36 percent of adults have a rainy day fund that would cover three months of life’s necessities. Sixty percent of adults in Vermont find it very or somewhat difficult to cover expenses and pay bills.
I would like to thank all 20 committee members for their dedication to this project and their thoughtful recommendations. Special thanks go to my committee co-chairs, Linda Tarr-Whelan and Scott Giles.
The responsibility to act on the recommendations is now in the hands of parents, business and nonprofit leaders, policymakers and educators throughout our great state. It is our hope that this report will not result in endless debate, but rather act as the catalyst that drives Vermont to become a national example in its commitment to the financial literacy of its citizens.
Task Force Chairman