Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Finance and Commercial Law

First Advisor

Jamie Weathers

Second Advisor

Jim DeMello

Third Advisor

Matthew Ross


Financial literacy is one of the most important skills for adults to possess, and therefore personal finance should be required education. Being financially literate provides individuals with the knowledge needed to make financially prudent decisions that substantially impact their lives (Kenton, 2019; Lusardi, 2008; Zucchi, 2018). However, only fifty-seven percent of adults in the United States are financially literate (Klapper, Lusardi, & Oudheusden, 2015).

Although financial literacy provides lifelong benefits, basic personal finance is seldom taught in schools (Council for Economic Education, 2018; NPR, 2019). Research shows that students are more financially literate where financial education in high school is required (Tennyson & Nguyen, 2001), yet only 17 states require high school students to take a personal finance course prior to graduating (Council for Economic Education, 2018). The lack of financial literacy amongst Americans has long-lasting negative repercussions on their financial, physical and mental health (American Psychological Association, 2017; Desjardins, 2018; Lusardi & Tufano, 2009; Sweet, Nandi, Adam, & McDade, 2013). While the negative effects of a lack of financial literacy persist, a growing amount of research indicates that financial education can meaningfully impact the financial behaviors that are causing these effects. For example, required personal finance courses in high schools have been shown to lead to greater wealth accumulation in adulthood in addition to better overall financial behaviors (Bernheim, Garrett, & Maki, 2001).

In addition to courses, different methods of delivery, such as applications available on phones and computers, allow for an increasing number of individuals to access financial knowledge which has historically been difficult to obtain (Collins, Gjertson, & O'Rourke, 2016). While many different methods of educating individuals on personal finance topics exist, there is only one option that ensures the majority of individuals will be exposed to this knowledge prior to adulthood; teaching personal finance in high schools.

In the following sections, I will first argue for a mandatory personal finance course by discussing the research-backed benefits of financial literacy and the effects that financial literacy has on financial behaviors. Following that, I will discuss several financial topics that could be covered in a personal finance course and demonstrate the need for education in these areas by citing various statistics. Lastly, I will argue that requiring a personal finance course in schools is the most effective method of rapidly increasing financial literacy by citing research that demonstrates both the benefits of coursework and scenarios as they pertain to effective financial literacy learning. Throughout many of these sections, I will also include my own experiences, both professionally as a financial assistant at a financial advisory firm and as a finance student, as anecdotal evidence to supplement the published research.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Maclain Thesis.pdf (1219 kB)
Defense Presentation

Budget Sheet - WMU.xlsx (70 kB)
Budget Sheet