A Brighter Future Starts with Hopeful Students

Julia Ehrenfeld  Follow

Who’s going to build the America of the future? New research released yesterday had an intriguing answer. The future depends on today’s 5th-12th graders and their success is dependent on an intangible – a feeling of hope. While hope may be in short supply among many adults these days, many kids are feeling hopeful. In fact what this first-of-its-kind research found is that for kids, hope is a direct result of financial literacy.

The Gallup-Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Index, unveiled yesterday at a forum in Washington D.C. which I attended, was designed to measure financial literacy and determine its relationship to hope, engagement with school, well-being and ultimately, the prosperity of the nation. It found that hopeful and thriving students were about four times more likely than discouraged and suffering students to be financially literate.

Working as I do at a company that has entrepreneurial spirit coursing through its veins, it is exciting to learn from this research that so many students aspire to be entrepreneurs when they “grow up.”  Seventy-seven percent say they want to be their own boss. Nine in 10 aren’t afraid to take risks even if they fail and 85 percent say they never give up.

As underscored by the presentations delivered by Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, and John Hope Bryant, Founder and CEO of Operation HOPE, to succeed in school, business and life, students need mentoring and financial education.

Unfortunately, the data shows that only a little over half of the students surveyed are taught about money and banking in school, and just 50 percent attend schools that offer classes on how to start and run a business. Real-world experience is also alarmingly low. Just 5 percent of students are interning at a local business and only 19 percent have recently had a paying job.

The index’s creators aren’t hesitant about making connections. They draw a direct line between hope, financial literacy and the economy. We are struggling as a nation. Right now, it looks like our best chance to build a great future starts with financial literacy for everyone.  It’s hard to argue with an equation that combines financial literacy and hope and ends in a higher GDP for America. CJP

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