"Although financial matters are probably not at the front of your minds today, the day will come when you will be responsible for managing your own or your family's budget or when you find that you need to save to get the things you want - a college education, a new car or even your own home," Bernanke said Wednesday in remarks prepared for students at Wilson Senior High School.
An explosion of financial products means that people have to be increasingly more financially sophisticated, he pointed out. That also means students need to understand the fundamentals of budgeting, banking, saving and investment, Bernanke said.
"It is also essential that you know how to use - properly and responsibly - the many types of credit that will be at your disposal, such as credit cards," he added.
In pushing this cause, Bernanke picked up one of the passions of predecessor Alan Greenspan.
A nationwide survey last year found that on average, high school seniors got a flunking grade when it came to financial literacy.
They answered correctly only 52.4 percent of questions about personal finance and economics. The survey, sponsored by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, was released by the Federal Reserve.
The dismal results of the survey underscored the need for students to improve their financial know-how.
"As you think about your future, don't forget the importance of financial literacy," Bernanke told the students.
In his remarks, he did not talk about the future course of interest rates in the United States or the state of the economy.
Many economists believe the Federal Reserve next month will keep a key interest rate at 5.25 percent, where it has been since last June. Before taking a break, the Fed had steadily boosted rates for two years to fend off inflation.