SACRAMENTO -- Would we all have been better off during the recession if we'd been a bit more money-educated? Most likely, yes.

Or at least more confident about understanding things like good loans, bad mortgages, saving more and getting less into debt.

That's the belief of many personal finance experts.

And it's not just the pros. Everyday consumers are well aware that they need some financial prowess.

Some 42 percent of adults gave themselves harsh grades -- a C, D or F -- on their knowledge of personal finances, according to a recent online survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. That's a significant change from 2010, when only 35 percent graded themselves poorly.

"Many Americans are so overwhelmed with their financial situation that they are financially frozen, preventing them from reaching out for the help they need," said foundation spokeswoman Gail Cunningham in an email. "Further complicating the problem is that personal finance is complex, and becoming more so every day. There is legitimate help available to consumers, but it's up to them to take advantage of it."

Help is definitely out there. During Financial Literacy Month in April, a number of schools, banks, nonprofits and government groups touted their financial literacy efforts. Here's a sampler:

  • At Sacramento Charter High School in Oak Park, a class of juniors and seniors was the first to finish a new financial literacy class course offered by the state Department of Real Estate. Funded by the nonprofit NID-Housing Counseling Agency, which provides mortgage and home ownership counseling, the class covers such basics as renting a first apartment, figuring interest rates on loans and saving vs. borrowing to buy a car.

    What prompted the Department of Real Estate to get involved?

    "As we sifted through the rubble of the financial meltdown," said DRE spokesman Tom Pool, "we saw that many people who were taken advantage of could have benefited from education."

  • Adding to its "Bank It Teens" program, Capital One bank has launched a free multimedia online tool for younger kids. Its new "Bank It Elementary" walks third- through sixth-graders through interactive lessons on saving, budgeting and managing money. It's at

  • The Council for Economic Education recently released its annual survey on high school instruction of economics and personal finances. While 22 states require an economics course as a graduation requirement (up from 21 in 2009), only 13 states mandate a personal finance course, the council said. For details:

    In California, state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, is trying to change that. Lieu, who has unsuccessfully pushed a series of financial literacy bills the last several years, has another in the hopper, SB 1080, that would encourage personal finance to be taught in high school economics classes. For more on California's financial literacy efforts, see the state Financial Literacy Month website,