My Curriculum for Money Education in High School

29 comments

Ever since I started learning about money in the summer of 2008, I’ve been fascinated with the lack of money education in our lives. No one teaches us anything about money, yet, every single person in this world deals with money every day.

America’s a nation that repeatedly struggles when it comes to money, but no one is stepping up to address and fix the problem.

High school students take classes like Spanish, clothing, Science, French, wood shop, and technology but for some reason basic money management is vacant from a majority of high school curriculums.

In order to improve the money savviness of Americans, mandatory money classes must be implemented in high schools around the country.

It doesn’t need to be a huge class taking up tons of school resources and time, but here’s what I think a money management curriculum should look like for high school students.

Class 1: Introduction to Money Basics

Sophomore Year

1 semester

2 days a week

Freshman are busy acclimating to new surroundings and are too preoccupied trying to find someone to kiss so the first class would be for sophomores.

This class should cover the basic money essentials in one’s life. This course will provide a stable money foundation for the teenagers as they move on to get part-time jobs, start driving, and eventually move onto college.

Topics covered in this course would be:

Banking

- An introduction to checking and savings accounts

- Online banking

- Interest rates

- Compound interest

Budgeting

- How to save for future goals

- How to create a budget for expenses

- How to track expenses and create savings goals

Credit (cards)

- What makes up a credit score

- How to use a credit card

- Understanding the numbers behind a credit card (APR, interest, minimums)

- The real cost of credit card debt

Class 2: Money in the Real World

Senior Year

1 semester

2 days a week

It’s easier for parents to keep an eye on their child’s spending when they’re living in their home, but when they go off to college and the credit cards start sprouting out of no where, a money education is even more important.

This class takes the basic money education the students learned in the sophomore class and builds on it as it applies to real world money situations.

Topics covered in this course would be:

Student Loans

- How to find them

- The difference between private and public loans

- How to properly use them

- How to pay them off

Cars and Car Loans

- Difference between leasing and buying

- How to save for a car

- Understanding car loans

Housing and Mortgages

- Renting vs. owning

- How to find a house you can afford

- The specifics of a mortgage

- How to properly save for a house

The cost of real-world bills

- Understanding the bills adults have

- Phone, electricity, rent, etc. .

- How to budget for them

::::

I’m really interested to hear what you guys think about this one so let me know in the comments what you think should and shouldn’t be included in a money class.

If there are enough comments, I’ll put together a comprehensive curriculum of reader’s choices in a future post.

What kind of format for classes would you like? Are 2 classes enough? When should the classes be held? What topics are essential and what could be left off the curriculum?

Thanks, I’m really looking forward to what you guys up come up with!

Photo: cdsessums

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29 Comments

  1. I always thought high schoolers should go through a class simply titled “why?” to discuss why they do the things they do. Related to that they could figure out what their goals are in finer detail and then from that be inspired to learn about money. The only reason I care about money is because of the freedom and ability to achieve my dreams associated with that. Therefore I think more than anything inspiration and making kids realize through proper money management they can achieve their dreams is more important. What do you think?
    .-= Ryan @ Planting Dollars´s last blog ..Three of the Best Blog Posts You’ll Ever Read =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    I think it’s brilliant. There are so many aspects of real-world living that high school (and college) fails to even mention to its students.

    Public education is difficult to change, but there’s no reason the science, social studies, math, science track needs to repeatedly stay the same just because it’s the way it’s always been.

    Classes like yours would make students think about life in such a different way that it would definitely have a positive effect on a good amount of students who are ready to hear stuff like that. And it’ll probably have more of an effect than my 4 years of Spanish did.

    [Reply]

  2. Craig Ford says:

    On the on hand I’m a big fan of requiring a formal financial education. On the other hand I only support it if I CAN TEACH IT. There is a lot of wacky ideas out there. Your plan does seem like solid advice.
    .-= Craig Ford´s last blog ..Passwords Security | How To Safely Store Passwords =-.

    [Reply]

  3. Austin says:

    That brings up a good point. Who’s qualified to teach these classes? Who would go public and give up the big bucks to teach kids about money? You can’t just throw some 22 year-old with a Bachelors into the classroom and expect them to change the way people spend for the rest of their lives.

    So, is a class about personal finance too personal to have in the classroom? Are we not ready to admit that we can’t find people to teach these classes?

    Alright, that’s enough questions

    [Reply]

  4. Len Penzo says:

    Hey, this is a cool post!

    A couple of comments:

    1. Believe it or not, when I was in school we learned how to balance a checkbook in the 4th grade. Not sure when that disappeared from the curriculum but it needs to return.

    2. I think you need to add to your basic curriculum the most important rule of all after learning how to balance that checkbook. The Rule of 72! It is a very versatile tool that I use quite often to help me make quick estimates on interest-related problems.

    All the best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com
    .-= Len Penzo´s last blog ..Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Others: What’s the Best Travel Search Engine? =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Good call on the Rule of 72. (Officially inserted into curriculum).

    But balance a checkbook, why waste the time there? Wouldn’t budgeting cover that without wasting time on tangible checks?

    [Reply]

    Len Penzo Reply:

    That is a fair question. But I would argue that there is a difference between balancing a checkbook (or checking account) and a budget in that a checkbook (checking account) should always be balanced to the penny.

    Budgets are more “squishy” and can – and should – be changed over time to meet changing scenarios.

    For your budget curriculum, I would expect that would cover how to set up a budget and then how to use it to control your finances. Not how to use it as a ledger – which is really what balancing a checkbook is more in line with.

    Best,

    Len
    .-= Len Penzo´s last blog ..Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Others: What’s the Best Travel Search Engine? =-.

    [Reply]

  5. MossySF says:

    Seems like might end up being another “blame the teachers” scenario if PF classes don’t produce a turnaround. Let’s just say I’m unsure of how receptive students will be.
    .-= MossySF´s last blog ..I hate mosquitoes =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Yeah, it’s a dangerous game and risk for the teachers in this scenario. PF is pretty subjective in certain points, so it couldn’t get too specific. I’m not sure how responsive most high school students are to anything but I still don’t think that means avoiding pf in schools.

    At least they won’t have an excuse for their poor money habits.

    Thanks for the comment, Mossy.

    [Reply]

  6. Joe Plemon says:

    Austin,
    I have been pro-active in helping my local high school teach our seniors about finance. I purchased a Dave Ramsey high school curriculum that our high school has integrated into a “Resource Management” class…a requirement for all seniors.

    The class is a scaled down version of Dave’s Financial Peace University, complete with DVDs of him giving the talks and worksheets that fit the talks. The class is called Foundations in Personal Finance…you can learn more here: http://www.daveramsey.com/school/foundations/

    The beauty is that Dave is doing the teaching, so the content is not left to some teacher who might not have a clue.
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Airstream Saga Continues: Jan and I Second Guess Our Decision =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Wow, that’s really awesome Joe. You’re taking my post to the next level!

    How did you get started with that? Have you written about it?

    [Reply]

    Joe Plemon Reply:

    Austin,
    Being a Dave Ramsey Counselor and having hosted Financial Peace University several times at our church, I was aware that DR offered a high school curriculum. I checked into it, got some info, set up a meeting with our High School Principal and introduced the concept. He was favorable to the idea so we got a sample DVD from Dave Ramsey for him and the teacher of the Resource Management class to preview and eventually got the DR class integrated into the existing Resource Management class. The entire process took close to a year, but it has now been used for two school years and the principal speaks very favorably of it.

    I haven’t written a post exclusively about this but I did mention it in this one: http://personalfinancebythebook.com/people-are-begging-for-financial-help-five-things-you-can-do/
    (Note that the businessman I referred to is me).
    .-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Airstream Saga Continues: Jan and I Second Guess Our Decision =-.

    [Reply]

  7. I was going to comment on the High School experience, but Len beat me to it. Back when we went to high school (we graduated the same year) they did teach some personal finance, along with auto shop, home economics and a number of other usefull subjects that are gone today.

    We had a mandatory “Life Skills” class. And, we had an imaginary checking account that we got paid in, then had to write out checks to pay all of our imaginary bills. It was awesome and it should still be required. Of course, it would need to be updated, since people didn’t have many credit cards, student loans or online banking, back in ’82.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    A life skills class sounds perfect. It would be like a Life Simulator where you could learn about the bumps and curves of life without getting thrown into jail or debt.

    [Reply]

  8. Paul says:

    Your article has a bunch of good suggestions, I would just add there should be some discussion of insurance. Everyone has to buy auto insurance, and most people will someday either need to or want to buy homeowners/renters insurance, not to mention life insurance and all the other kinds of insurance that are out there.

    A student should be able to understand various limits of auto insurance, the differences in type of homeowners insurance (HO3 vs. HO6) for instance, and in general how insurance functions. Many people think all insurance is the same, and shop on price or funny commercials only, and they don’t realize what the actual coverage they are getting is. It isn’t until it is too late and a loss already occurred that somebody realizes they didn’t have nearly the right amount of insurance. Teaching students what to look for and how insurance works would be very beneficial I think.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Great, great idea. I can’t believe I left that one out.

    More than anything a misunderstanding of insurance can cause some real financial pain. Too many people’s lives have been turned around for the worse because they were ignorant of insurance.

    Thanks for the comment!

    [Reply]

  9. Terry Prince says:

    I’d suggest the students have practical assignments such as tracking what they currently spend over the weeks and then having in class discussions on how their choices effect their spending habits. Hearing how their peers spend or save can be eyeopening.

    Anther projects – such as how much does it cost to “feed” you and your “baby” – might be a good investigation and discussion topic.

    I’d also suggest the teens become familiarized with aggregates such as http://www.mint.com that help track spending.

    Discussion on tracking spending and saving is an important component for today’s students. They are less likely to write checks, or balance their checking account. Most today rely on what the ATM or online banking account tells them.
    .-= Terry Prince´s last blog ..Finding Joy – Mental and Physical Realignment =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Yeah, I think tracking would fall under the budget part of the course. I prefer my own spreadsheet to Mint, but Mint is great for people who want a more hands-off approach.

    Discussion is really important to show students that money topics don’t have to be hush topics.

    Thanks for the comment!
    .-= Austin´s last blog ..How to Improve Your Credit While Living Abroad =-.

    [Reply]

  10. I too learned how to write a check in 5th grade. Other than that, the only kind of money management education I received was probably how to calculate interest payments in high school math classes. I agree wholeheartedly that the courses you suggest are necessary.

    It’d probably also be useful to give students a primer on stock market investing. It’d be interesting to do a class competition where students pretend to invest in stocks and see who comes out on top in the end.

    And, I feel a little silly suggesting this, but I also wonder if it’d be worth it to touch on retirement saving. I imagine retirement is the last thing on the minds of high school students but it won’t be long before they actually have to make decisions about contributing to 401Ks or Roths. And of course it’s best to start saving as early as possible.

    -Gail
    .-= Wide Island View´s last blog ..Spring Photo Contest 2010 – With Prizes! =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    That’s all anyone says when I ask what they learned in school about money: writing checks, but no does it!

    Investing would fit well in the 2nd course. The earlier you start, the better, so it needs to be introduced early. I’m sure there are a lot of 25-35 year olds who are mad they didn’t start even a couple years earlier.

    [Reply]

  11. jolie says:

    I teach middle years and there is a fantastic resource out there called The Real Game. There’s one for Grades 5/6, one for Grades 7/8, and one for Grades 8/9. It teaches about career choices, gross and net pay, bills, budgeting and more. My students absolutely love it.
    .-= jolie´s last blog ..bucket lists =-.

    [Reply]

    Austin Reply:

    Hmm, thanks for the info. I’ll need to look into this more. That could easily be something that would be used for high school.

    Thanks!

    Austin

    [Reply]

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