Some Say Teaching Personal Finance in Schools is Ineffective

Ever wonder what you might learn if you studied 168 research papers that covered 201 studies on personal finance?  That is what Fernandes and his team did in a Meta-Analysis published in 2013 where they explored the relationship between financial literacy/financial education and financial behaviors.  Some of the key take-aways we had from reviewing this broad analysis of how education impacts behavior are:

  • Education presented just before making a financial decision has the largest impact.
  • After 20 months, the impact of financial literacy education is negligible.  So in less than two years after leaving the classroom, there is no difference (in behavior) between a student with personal finance education and one without. 
  • Previous studies (ones included in the Meta-Analysis) yielded vastly different results and when taking into account the quality/robustness of the science, the studies claiming effectiveness were much more likely to contain weak science.

We encourage you to review this research, especially if you are an educator.  Here is the full version as well as an executive summary.

Executive Summary NEFE

Full-Length Version

While this is important research, we do not agree with the conclusion reached by the researchers (that personal finance should be removed from schools because it doesn't work).  Budget Challenge is the only program that allows students to make real financial decisions with their new knowledge and experience the consequences of those decisions.  This is where the learning happens that impacts behavior and this is why Budget Challenge is different.  This is also why our patented program is effective.

We are Proud to Show You Our Data

The international financial literacy PISA study surveys 15-year-olds all over the world to assess and compare how well different countries educational systems prepare their youth for full participation in society (real-life situations not necessarily taught in schools). They found that the United States is just average. 

We have included as part of Budget Challenge a pre/post survey modeled after the PISA. While this is NOT a PISA study, the questions are designed to be extremely similar and we surveyed high-school aged students. We have also placed the 10+ week Budget Challenge experience in between the pre and post tests to see how our learn-by-doing approach improves the scores. Here are our results from surveying 40,343 students in the spring of 2016. 

  • Understanding Invoice Terms – Up 23% 
  • Understanding Paystub Deductions – Up over 100% 
  • Understanding Invoice Credits and Amounts Due – Up 15%

We also ask students what they learned at the end of each simulation.  Here is what over tens of thousands of students said:

Student Results Spring 2017 (n=54,392) *NEW*

Student Results Spring 2016 (n=47,109)

Student Results Fall 2015 (n=29,614)


We also are committed to making our program continuously meet the needs of teachers in the classroom, so we ask for teacher feedback after each simulation.  Here is what hundreds of teachers said that played in the Fall of 2015

Teacher Feedback Spring 2017 (n=1,348) *NEW*

Teacher Feedback Spring 2016 (n=1,173)

Teacher Feedback Fall 2016 (n=894)

Measuring Real-World Results

We welcome a collaboration with academic researchers and funders interested in studying the longitudinal impact of our program on students in the real world.  Please contact us at with the subject line "Research" if interested.  

To support this important work we invite and welcome all students that complete Budget Challenge to join our Alumni Network where they can participate in our Fee Scout TM program.  Fee Scout TM is a new tool that will help students track their progress against national benchmarks and recommended targets in the following 5 areas: Bank Fees, Credit Card Fees, Investing Fees, Savings Rate, and Credit Score.   While we track students success in the real world after using Budget Challenge we can start to build solid evidence of the long-term impact of our program.