5 Minutes With a Money Luminary ... Florida State Senator Dorothy Hukill

5 Minutes With a Money Luminary ... Florida State Senator Dorothy Hukill

Dorothy-HukillIn our Money Luminary series, we’re serving up fresh insight from a financial thought leader of the moment.

Today, we sit down with a veteran politician who's making it her mission to prioritize personal finance education in schools.

April 1 marks day one of National Financial Literacy Month—making it the perfect time to delve into the work of Florida State Senator Dorothy Hukill.

After all, Hukill introduced the “Personal Financial Literacy Education Act" in March, a bill that would require Florida high school students to complete a comprehensive money course in order to graduate.

With a political career spanning over 20 years, the former councilwoman, vice mayor and state representative is no stranger to advocating for financial literacy: She proposed a similar education requirement just last year.

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It gained some initial traction, but ultimately failed to pass when some legislators expressed concerns about overloading teens.

But that hasn’t thwarted Hukill from bolstering the bill again.

“If the recent financial crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we need to know how to survive in tough economic times," she says. "Being financially prepared for life’s emergencies—like the loss of a job—is a skill that needs to be taught."

To this end, Hukill's proposed bill outlines 13 key money topics that the mandatory class would cover—including budgeting, credit scores, taxes and interest rates.

"Teach teens the rules of the road before giving them the keys to their financial future."

Financial Literacy—for Teens and Tykes

Senator Hukill’s concerns are warranted.

A 2014 survey by the Program for International Student Assessment revealed that American teens rank barely "average" in the money smarts department—lagging far behind their peers in China, Australia and Poland.

What's more, almost half of American adults in a 2014 RetailMeNot survey admitted that they lack even the most basic financial knowledge.

But Hukill insists that education early on would help to fill that gap.

And research supports her theory: According to a 2014 study by EverFi, students who completed a money course in high school were significantly more likely than their peers to be financially responsible in college.

It all adds up to a financial education movement that's gaining steam.

To date, 17 states currently require high school students to pass a personal finance class, and some states are taking it even further. Maryland and Illinois, for example, have started teaching financial basics as early as kindergarten.

Hukill hopes such curricula will soon become the new standard. After all, students are required to pass a driving test before earning a license, she points out. "We need to look at personal finance the same way," she says, "by teaching teens the rules of the road before giving them the keys to their financial future."

RELATED: Do You Speak Money? The Secret Language of Finance—Decoded

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