Financial Lit Standards
|Financial Literacy Standard||Concept|
Income for most people is determined by the market value of their labor, paid as wages and salaries. People can increase their income and job opportunities by choosing to acquire more education, work experience, and job skills. The decision to undertake an activity that increases income or job opportunities is affected by the expected benefits and costs of such an activity. Income also is obtained from other sources such as interest, rents, capital gains, dividends, and profits.
This standard focuses on income earned or received by people. The primary focus at the 4th grade level is to describe different types of jobs as well as different forms of income earned or received. Attention at the 8th grade level turns to the benefits and costs of increasing income through the acquisition of education and skills. Government programs that affect income are introduced. The 12th grade level gives further emphasis to types of income and taxes, highlights benefit-cost decisions related to jobs and careers, and introduces labor markets.
Buying Goods & Services
People cannot buy or make all the goods and services they want; as a result, people choose to buy some goods and services and not buy others. People can improve their economic well-being by making informed spending decisions, which entails collecting information, planning, and budgeting.
The 4th grade benchmarks introduce the concepts of scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost. Factors that influence spending choices, such as advertising, peer pressure, and spending choices of others, are analyzed. Attention is given to comparing the costs and benefits of spending decisions. The basics of budgeting and planning are introduced. The 8th grade benchmarks expand upon these concepts. More attention is paid to making a spending decision. Payment methods are introduced along with the importance of weighing the costs and benefits of each. Budgeting is discussed in more detail, including the classification of expenses. The 12th grade benchmarks frame a consumer’s decision using economic ideas such as satisfaction, determinants of demand, costs of information search, choice of product durability and other features, and the role of government and other institutions in providing information for consumers.
Saving is the part of income that people choose to set aside for future uses. People save for different reasons during the course of their lives. People make different choices about how they save and how much they save. Time, interest rates, and inflation affect the value of savings.
At the 4th grade level, the primary focus is for students to understand the concept of saving. Students should know how people save money, where people can save money, and why people save money, as well as the concept of interest. At the 8th grade level, the focus turns to the role that financial institutions play as intermediaries between savers and borrowers as well as the role government agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) play in protecting savings deposits. The role of markets in determining interest rates is introduced. Finally, the mathematics of saving is covered, including the power of compound interest. All of this is framed around the choices people make about how much to save. At the 12th grade level, more complex concepts are introduced, such as real versus nominal interest rates, present versus future value, financial regulators, the factors determining the value of a person’s savings over time, automatic savings plans, “rainy-day” funds, and saving for retirement.
|Credit allows people to purchase goods and services that they can use today and pay for those goods and services in the future with interest. People choose among different credit options that have different costs. Lenders approve or deny applications for loans based on an evaluation of the borrower’s past credit history and expected ability to pay in the future. Higher-risk borrowers are charged higher interest rates; lower-risk borrowers are charged lower interest rates.
At the 4th grade level, students should understand the concept of credit and the cost of using credit—namely, the obligation to repay what is borrowed plus interest on the amount borrowed. Students should recognize that a reputation for repaying loans contributes to a person’s ability to obtain loans in the future. At the 8th grade level, attention turns to why people use credit, the sources of credit, why interest rates vary across borrowers, and the reasons for using credit to invest in education and durable goods. Students should be able to make basic calculations related to borrowing, including principal and interest payments as well as compound interest. At the 12th grade level, the focus is on credit reports, credit scores, behaviors that contribute to strong credit reports and scores, and the impact of credit reports and scores on consumers. Consumer protection laws as they apply to credit and credit card use are also covered.
|Students will understand that: Voluntary exchange occurs only when all participating parties expect to gain. This is true for trade among individuals or organizations within a nation, and among individuals or organizations in different nations.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Negotiate exchanges and identify the gains to themselves and others. Compare the benefits and costs of policies that alter trade barriers between nations, such as tariffs and quotas.
|Students will understand that: When individuals, regions, and nations specialize in what they can produce at the lowest cost and then trade with others, both production and consumption increase.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Explain how they can benefit themselves and others by developing special skills and strengths.
Markets and Prices
|Students will understand that: A market exists when buyers and sellers interact. This interaction determines market prices and thereby allocates scarce goods and services.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Identify markets in which they have participated as a buyer and as a seller and describe how the interaction of all buyers and sellers influences prices. Also, predict how prices change when there is either a shortage or surplus of the product available.
In market economies there is no central planning agency that decides how many different kinds of sandwiches are provided for lunch every day at restaurants and stores, how many loaves of bread are baked, how many toys are produced before the holidays, or what the prices will be for the sandwiches, bread, and toys. Students should understand that, instead, most prices in market economies are established by the interaction between buyers and sellers.
Understanding how market prices and output levels are determined helps people anticipate market opportunities and make better choices as consumers and producers. It will also help them realize that market allocations are impersonal.
Role of Prices
|Students will understand that: Prices send signals and provide incentives to buyers and sellers. When supply or demand changes, market prices adjust, affecting incentives.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Predict how prices change when the number of buyers or sellers in a market changes, and explain how the incentives facing individual buyers and sellers are affected.
Understanding the role of prices as signals and incentives helps people anticipate market opportunities and make better choices as producers and consumers. It also helps citizens understand the consequences and weigh the costs and benefits of price controls, such as minimum-wage laws and rent ceilings, that set legal minimum or maximum prices and result in sustained surpluses or shortages.
Competition and Market Structure
|Students will understand that: Competition among sellers lowers costs and prices, and encourages producers to produce what consumers are willing and able to buy. Competition among buyers increases prices and allocates goods and services to those people who are willing and able to pay the most for them.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Explain how changes in the level of competition in different markets can affect them.
Fast-food restaurants that set prices too high, or give slow, unfriendly service, risk losing customers to competing restaurants that offer lower prices, higher-quality products, and better service. In this way, competition benefits consumers. Understanding the benefits of competition and the costs of limiting competition helps students evaluate public policies that affect the level of competition in various markets. It also helps students understand their own roles as producers and consumers in a market economy in terms of opportunities to compete with others and in terms of the limits that competition places on their incomes, career plans, and what they can buy and consume.
Competition improves productivity by forcing all suppliers to "be the best that they can be." Productivity improvements, in turn, foster economic growth, and a better quality of life for current and future generations. It is important for students to recognize that competition contributes in a positive way to economic growth and the quality of life.
|Students will understand that: Institutions evolve and are created to help individuals and groups accomplish their goals. Banks, labor unions, markets, corporations, legal systems, and not-for-profit organizations are examples of important institutions. A different kind of institution, clearly defined and enforced property rights, is essential to a market economy.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Describe the roles of various economic institutions.
Institutions play a number of roles in a market economy. Property rights help insure that people bear the costs and reap the benefits of their decisions. Property rights and contract enforcement encourage investment by assuring investors that they will reap the rewards of deferring consumption and assuming risk if these investments perform well. Limiting individual liability and allowing people to pool their investment resources through joint stock corporations also increases investment and future income.
Other institutions lower the costs buyers and sellers incur in their efforts to find each other in different kinds of markets. For example, banks match savers with borrowers; and investment banks match entrepreneurs who organize new firms with investors who provide the needed funds.
Many institutions work to promote the goals of certain interest groups. Labor union, for example, increase the negotiating power of workers in their dealings with employers.
Understanding economic institutions and the purposes they serve will help students use institutions more effectively and help them evaluate proposed new institutions or changes in the existing legal and institutional environment.
Money and Inflation
|Students will understand that: Money makes it easier to trade, borrow, save, invest, and compare the value of goods and services. The amount of money in the economy affects the overall price level. Inflation is an increase in the overall price level that reduces the value of money.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Explain how their lives would be more difficult in a world with no money, or in a world where money sharply lost its value.
Most people would like to have more money. Students, however, often fail to understand that the real value of money is determined by the goods and services money can buy. Doubling the amount of money in an economy overnight would not, by itself, make people better off, because there would still be the same amount of goods and services produced and consumed, only at higher prices. Money is important to an economy, however, because as it replaces barter, it makes exchange less costly. As a result, people are more likely to specialize in what they produce, and then use money to buy whatever they want to consume, this increases the overall levels of production and consumption in a nation.
Understanding what determines the real buying power of money and earnings will help students make better decisions about their jobs and spending. Understanding the importance of money to society will also help them make more informed decisions about national policies related to banking, controlling the supply of money, and inflation.
|Students will understand that: Interest rates, adjusted for inflation, rise and fall to balance the amount saved with the amount borrowed, which affects the allocation of scarce resources between present and future uses.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Explain situations in which they pay or receive interest, and explain how they would react to changes in interest rates if they were making or receiving interest payments.
Interest rates influence the borrowing and saving of business investors, consumers, and government agencies. Most people are unfamiliar with interest rates until they wish to borrow money for a major purchase such as an automobile, college education, or a house. When they enter the market for credit they encounter an unfamiliar price (the interest rate) offered by an unfamiliar business (a financial institution). It is necessary for students to understand that interest rates are determined by market forces that balance savings and borrowing. For many people, interest rates can represent significant financial costs and significant financial benefits over a lifetime.
It is also important for students to understand the incentive effects of interest rates. Interest payments compensate savers for postponing current consumption; they compensate lenders for the risk that borrowers might default on their loans; and they cover the cost of expected inflation over the term of the loan.
|Students will understand that: Income for most people is determined by the market value of the productive resources they sell. What workers earn primarily depends on the market value of what they produce.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Predict future earnings based on their current plans for education, training, and career options.
In a market economy, wages and salaries the prices of labor services are determined just as other prices are, by the interaction of buyers and sellers. The buyers of labor services are employers. They are willing to pay higher wages and salaries to those employees who can produce more or better goods or services in a given amount of time. Students who understand this will appreciate the value of the skills they can acquire by completing high school, and perhaps college or a vocational training program.
Understanding the forces affecting wages and other sources of income will be increasingly important in the future, when workers may change employers and careers more often than in the past. Regardless of the occupations or industries in which today's students eventually work, they are likely to find that they will have to continue their education and training to maintain or increase their earnings.
|Students will understand that: Entrepreneurs take on the calculated risk of starting new businesses, either by embarking on new ventures similar to existing ones or by introducing new innovations. Entrepreneurial innovation is an important source of economic growth.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Identify the risks, returns, and other characteristics of entrepreneurship that bear on its attractiveness as a career.
Starting a new business, such as a "drive thru" that sells fruit-freezes, is difficult and risky. Challenges abound: hiring and managing the workers to make and serve the freezes, ordering supplies and making sure they arrive on time, giving prompt and courteous service so customers will return, and earning enough money to pay workers, taxes, suppliers and everyone else involved in the production and sales process, while still leaving something for the owner.
Spending money and using resources to supply a product is risky, because costs are incurred before consumers decide whether they will purchase the product at a price sufficiently high to cover the costs. Starting a new business or producing an entirely new product is especially risky because in the case of a new product producers know even less about how consumers will react. Entrepreneurs accept the risks and organize productive resources to get products produced. Profits are the financial incentive and the income that entrepreneurs receive in return for their effort and risk if they are successful. If they aren't successful, losses are the financial incentives that tell entrepreneurs to stop using resources as they have been using them.
Understanding the roles of entrepreneurs, profits, and losses is important to workers, business owners, and consumers. Wages and employment opportunities at a business depend on the business' success in earning profits and avoiding losses. Similarly, public policies that affect the profitability of a business will influence not only the owners and employees of the business, but also the consumers who buy the products produced by the business.
|Students will understand that: Investment in factories, machinery, new technology, and in the health, education, and training of people stimulates economic growth and can raise future standards of living.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Predict the consequences of investment decisions made by individuals, businesses, and governments.
Students should recognize that by saving and investing money today they can benefit in the future by being able to buy such things as a car, a compact disk player, a trip to an amusement park, or other things they want that cost more than what they can afford immediately. They will face similar trade-offs throughout their lives. As adults they will save for many things other than toys and vacations including housing, medical expenses, taxes, household and automobile repairs, their children's education, and their own retirement. Savings deposited in banks and other financial institutions earn interest because those savings are loaned to businesses that want to invest in capital goods, or to people who are willing to pay higher interest rates to purchase homes, cars, or other things now rather than later. The new physical capital will, in turn, increase production and promote faster economic growth.
Businesses, governments, and other organizations face decisions similar to those confronting individuals: future benefits that arise from saving and investing today make it worthwhile to sacrifice some current spending. Knowing this will help students understand the various investment and dividend programs adopted by different corporations, as well as public policies involving taxation, spending programs, and investment in infrastructure, education, and other things that will increase future standards of living. It will help them appreciate that a better life in the future often requires patience and sacrifice in the present. It will also help them understand the importance of personal investment in education and training, and of business investments.
Role of Government and Market Failure
|Students will understand that: There is an economic role for government in a market economy whenever the benefits of a government policy outweigh its costs. Governments often provide for national defense, address environmental concerns, define and protect property rights, and attempt to make markets more competitive. Most government policies also have direct or indirect effects on peoples? incomes.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Identify and evaluate the benefits and costs of alternative public policies, and assess who enjoys the benefits and who bears the costs.
Why does government pay private construction firms to build roads and highways? Why do the firms that build the roads not own them themselves and charge tolls to users? All kinds of goods and services are produced and distributed through private markets, so why not roads and highways, too? In flipping through the pages of the telephone directory, we observe a vast array of businesses and government agencies. Why do markets work well to supply much of what we want, while failing to produce other things we want?
Citizens should understand the limitations and shortcomings of markets and how some government policies attempt to compensate for market failures. Learning the economic as well as the political and social reasons for public sector services helps citizens make better choices about the appropriate size and scope of markets and government. It is also important that students be able to evaluate redistributive effects of government programs.
|Students will understand that: Costs of government policies sometimes exceed benefits. This may occur because of incentives facing voters, government officials, and government employees, because of actions by special interest groups that can impose costs on the general public, or because social goals other than economic efficiency are being pursued.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Identify some public policies that may cost more than the benefits they generate, and assess who enjoys the benefits and who bears the costs. Explain why the policies exist.
Do government officials try to promote the general welfare of the nation, or are they guided by their own self-interests? Businesses that fail to satisfy consumer wants go bankrupt; but how do we know when government programs fail, and how do we change or eliminate failed government programs? Why do some farmers receive large subsidies from the government, and why are many businesses protected from competition by tariffs or quotas even when only a small percentage of the U.S. labor force is employed in those industries? Why don't taxpayers rise up and put a stop to the favoritism accorded to certain industries and special interest groups? And why do so few people participate in the political process, and so many choose not to register or vote?
It is important to realize that governments, like markets, also have shortcomings and imperfections. Citizens should understand the sources of these imperfections, including the distribution of costs and benefits of some programs that lead to special-interest problems, the costs involved in gathering and using information about different candidates and government programs, and the incentives that can induce government leaders and employees to act in ways that do not promote the general national interest. Understanding this allows citizens to compare actual with ideal government performance, and to decide about the appropriate role for federal, state, and local government.
|Students will understand that: Fluctuations in a nation?s overall levels of income, employment, and prices are determined by the interaction of spending and production decisions made by all households, firms, government agencies, and others in the economy. Recessions occur when overall levels of income and employment decline.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Interpret media reports about current economic conditions and explain how these conditions can influence decisions made by consumers, producers, and government policy makers.
Changes in national levels of spending, production, and income can seem rather abstract and remote to students, because individuals can do little or nothing to change overall levels of economic activity. However, these activity levels can have a profound effect on students' future welfare, their job opportunities, the level of their prospective earnings, and the prices they will pay for things they buy. It is important, therefore, for students to understand possible causes of changes in these levels and how such changes can produce problems (such as unemployment and inflation) or opportunities (such as increased employment). Understanding these macroeconomic forces equips students to anticipate and respond intelligently to economic developments. It also enables students to predict the economic consequences of proposed government policies and to make informed choices among alternative public policy proposals.
Unemployment and Inflation
|Students will understand that: Unemployment imposes costs on individuals and the overall economy. Inflation, both expected and unexpected, also imposes costs on individuals and the overall economy. Unemployment increases during recessions and decreases during recoveries.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Make informed decisions by anticipating the consequences of inflation and unemployment.
Inflation and unemployment are important because they affect national levels of economic growth and standards of living. Some aspects of inflation and unemployment can be addressed with public policies. Various political leaders and parties often have different ideas about which policies should be followed to deal with inflation and unemployment, however. The controversial policies, and the fact that almost everyone is affected by unemployment or inflation, explain why these two problems and alternative approaches to combat them are so widely reported in the news media, and why understanding them is important to people in a democratic political system.
Fiscal and Monetary Policy
|Students will understand that: Federal government budgetary policy and the Federal Reserve System?s monetary policy influence the overall levels of employment, output, and prices.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Anticipate the impact of federal government and Federal Reserve System macroeconomic policy decisions on themselves and others.
The U.S. federal government's taxation and spending policies, and the Federal Reserve System's monetary policies affect the nation's overall levels of employment, output, and prices. However, many government taxation and spending activities are undertaken for other reasons, as well. Government expenditures for national defense, human services, and other purposes are made to meet specific objectives and not primarily because of their fiscal policy effects. Other important objectives must be merged with the goals of full employment, price stability, and economic growth. Therefore, government programs may have contradictory effects upon employment and inflation. Understanding these effects is complicated also by the time lags that occur before action taken pursuant to a specific policy begins to affect overall levels of employment, output, and prices.
In spite of these difficulties, policy makers and the general public continue to examine and debate the overall stabilization effects of public policy actions, because the consequences are so important. Citizens should understand the role of conflicting objectives and the limitations on the effectiveness of economic stabilization policies in order to develop realistic expectations about what can be accomplished with taxation, spending, and monetary policies.