Iowa teens score better than the national average in “financial literacy” — even though they still get a failing grade from a group of experts who try to educate young people about spending and saving wisely. Iowa State University Extension Family Resource Specialist Sue McDonnell chairs the Iowa Jumpstart Coalition, a group of private and nonprofit organizations with the aim of educating kids in financial know-how. She says bankruptcies and overuse of credit are “at epidemic proportions” and that shows that both young people and those of all ages fail to manage their money well. One factor McDonnell cites is the easy availability of credit, which gives some people a hard time distinguishing between “wants” and “needs,” and leads to lots of bankruptcies. The Iowa JumpStart Coalition is sponsoring its third annual “Financial Literacy” conference for teachers next week in Des Moines and will offer classroom materials and curriculum guides for teaching financial planning to middle- and highschool students. She says many school districts ARE realizing the importance of financial literacy and starting classes her group hopes will become required for high school students. McDonnell says teachers can incorporate the lesson plans into everyday classes. McDonnell cites the example of a young man who opened his first checking account upon joining the military and upon receiving a statement, thought the canceled checks inside it meant the businesses hadn’t “wanted his money.” Teachers who attend the conference July 24 and 25 will get an hour of graduate or staff-development credit. Information on the conference is online at