Despite the challenges educating teachers on financial concepts, states aren't giving up. The Virginia Council on Economic Education implemented 68 institutes serving more than 1,600 teachers.
Sarah Finley, director of programs for the council, said the 40-hour personal finance institutes receive very strong feedback from teachers in the training. "Many teachers leave with a much greater awareness of the value of this education for their students." Finley said. "They also find that the personal finance institute is helpful for them personally."
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States vary widely on education requirements for personal finance in the classroom. All states include economics standards for kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum, but only six states require testing of personal finance concepts. Among those states are Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan and Delaware but a study from the Council for Economic Education shows fewer than 20 percent of teachers report feeling competent to educate on personal finance topics.
Flo Falatko is a fifth-grade teacher at Cromwell Valley Elementary in Towson, Maryland. She started teaching financial literacy to her students 11 years ago. Falatko wanted her students to have more knowledge of personal finance than she did growing up, because she says that some kids just don't grasp the idea that having money is more than whipping out a piece of plastic.
"There were a couple of students who truly felt that if they just went to their parents, the money comes out of their wallet and that was a 'wow' to me," explained Falatko.
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But teachers have a long way to go. In a study by the Program for International Student Assessment on variation in financial literacy performance within countries and economies, the U.S. scored below average at 492 compared with Shanghai with the top mean score of 603.
According to the 2014 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, when it comes to retirement savings, about 1 in 3 U.S. adults still do not save any portion of their household's annual income.
"Even if it is uncomfortable for teachers to teach it, or for the parents to work with it," said Falatko, it is essential the government push the importance of financial literacy down to the school districts.
—By CNBC's Landon Dowdy