WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Monday asked schools to teach young Americans about financial literacy, saying too many Millennials don’t know how to make good financial decisions.

At a public meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, Lew said that young people need to be prepared to make financial decisions earlier than in past generations, especially as technology provides an option for financial decision-making in real time.

“Mastering the basics of financial decision-making at an early age,” said Lew, “will equip young people for the first major financial decision many Americans are likely to face: whether to pursue post-secondary education and, if so, how to pay for it.”

Council members said young Americans are even poorly prepared to manage their finances in simple ways like opening a checking account or saving for an emergency. A report released Monday by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that only 18 percent of Americans ages 18 to 26, answered four out of five questions correctly on a basic financial literacy test.

Compared with older generations, the FINRA study found that more Millennials then other age groups are spending more than their income and fewer have rainy day funds or retirement accounts. More Millennials have student debt, pay only the minimum on their credit card or carrying a balance and use risky nonbank borrowing methods like pawn shops or payday lenders.

The advisory council was created in 2010 as a successor to President George W. Bush’s council on financial literacy. The assembly of financial experts, educators and nonprofit leaders has come up with programs to improve young Americans’ understanding of finances, expand their access to financial opportunities and provide consumer protection.

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the first step is education and experiential learning through simulation and guided investment.

“Only when financial literacy is embedded in the core curriculum can we begin to make a difference,” said Cordray.

Several years ago, a previous incarnation of the advisory council created a website called Money as You Grow to help parents of kids age 3 and up educate their children on basic financial skills. The site combines information with activities parents and kids can do together to promote financial literacy.

Beth Kobliner, a finance journalist who spearheaded the effort to create Money as You Grow,said she was blown away by the success of the site, which went viral as parents posted it to Pinterest and Facebook. Their interest shows parents are hungry for way to prepare their kids for a secure financial future, she said.

“It’s one thing to have a cat on roller skates go viral,” Kobliner said. “It’s another when a finance site does.”

In February, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative called the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force aimed towards helping young men of color access opportunity and get ahead. My Brother’s Keeper will seek out and identify community programs that work to improve the life outcomes of young men of color and stimulate the expansion of these programs across the country.

Several CEOs of nonprofits that work to promote financial literacy and equal opportunity sit on the advisory council, including Ted Gonder, the CEO of Moneythink. Moneythink recruits and trains college volunteers to lead high school students in low-income communities through a 21-week program of education in real-world financial decisions.

“Students in our program have helped their mothers keep the heat on this winter through simple budgeting,” Gonder said, “They saved to help younger brothers and sisters get eyeglasses.”

Unleashing the power of non-profits and non-governmental organizations is the key to achieving equal opportunity for all, members of the council said.

Cecilia Muñoz, director of the President’s Domestic Policy Council, said consumer protection for young people has become more complex and difficult due to their increasing dependence on credit cards.

She said her daughter is bombarded with credit card offers. When Munoz offered to teach her to balance her checkbook, her daughter said, “Mom, I don’t have a checkbook, I have various pieces of plastic.”