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Personal finance course requirement heads to Indiana governor

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana lawmakers from both parties on Tuesday said new coursework legislation would help address a lack of financial literacy among students.

Bill author Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton, who is an insurance agent, said, in his experience, many young people don’t know how to balance a checkbook or even check their balances regularly. National statistics back him up.

According to the credit rating agency Experian, total average debt for Americans ages 18 to 25 rose by nearly 25% between 2021 and 2022, with credit card debt for Generation Z breaking the 25% mark. Millennials, those ages 26 to 41, didn’t fare much better, with total average debt rising by more than 14% in the same period.

Gaskill’s bill would require every child beginning with the class of 2028 to take a standalone personal financial responsibility course. The course would have to cover topics including opening and managing a bank account, managing debt, applying for loans, and understanding credit scores.

According to the advocacy group Next Gen Personal Finance, 18 states either have implemented or soon will implement a financial literacy course requirement, though only seven of those states require a standalone course.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to secure their financial future while they’re in their 20s. It’s the most important decade of life to secure your financial future, is in your 20s,” Gaskill said.

The bill has broad bipartisan support. The final version received a unanimous vote in both chambers on Tuesday. Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, who signed on as a co-sponsor for the bill, said the course would help young people understand how to make key financial decisions later in life, though she added it would not address deeper economic issues.

“There is a divide and we want to make sure that all Hoosiers know the fundamentals so that they can engage the economy and feel like they’re actively participating,” she said. “But we do need to address the fundamental issue of poverty and income inequality that continue to drag Indiana down.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb will have seven days to act on the bill once it is formally presented to him.