Insights from Personal Finance Teachers

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Oct 09, 2014
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Personal Finance, Financial Literacy, Teaching Strategies

Combing through news stories from 2014 to capture thoughts and activities that personal finance educators are using in the classroom:

The assignment from CVCHS personal finance teacher Gary Stofer was to balance the books.  “It’s reality. These kids don’t have that in school,” Stofer said. “They’re the math-haters. But they’re turning out to like it. It’s the first math they’ve had that they feel they can use.”  Stofer said math is a way of developing the mind: if this is true, then that is true. Unlike geometry — the other course he teaches — controlling finances is a skill they’ll need regardless of the career path they choose.  Lozano said the workshops are terrific fun, partly because it’s hard for credit union people to play the antihero (trying to get people to buy expensive items), but mostly because kids learn.

Warren County High School’s Personal Finance students are in for a Reality Check on April 25 with the biannual event that teaches students beyond the classroom. “Students go in there with a career and family, and they have to go to thirteen different stations, pay their bills and make choices,” stated personal finance teacher Jessica Akers about Reality Check. “I think it’s a very good simulation for the kids, and it opens their eyes to real-life choices.”

CHS Personal Finance teacher Kevin Doherty believes that the class is important because it teaches students how to handle their money once they are living on their own. “It’s expertise you need every day for little things like buying food and maintaining a home,” Doherty said. “You need these skills no matter who you are, and you won’t learn them unless someone teaches you.” According to Doherty, some college kids take personal finance courses. This may be helpful, but is also overdue. By the time kids reach college, they are already starting to live on their own and, if uneducated, are already acquiring money spending and saving habits that can remain with them throughout their life.

Students should be exposed to financial literacy earlier, and more often, said Champlain Valley Union High School personal finance teacher Colleen Wedge of Bristol.  “It’s not just about this one class, it has to be integrated throughout the curriculum,” she said. “When I introduced credit scores to the class, I was met with a lot of blank stares.”  Personal finance class is the first place many students learn about credit scores, the difference between debit and credit, and interest rates, Wedge said.

While underclassmen were taking tests Wednesday at Pewaukee High School, seniors spent the morning getting a crash course in personal finance and the challenges they could face in the near future. The event, called Reality Store, takes students through some of the basic financial situations they will face. After selecting a job, students write a check to themselves to represent their monthly salaries.  Their first stop after that is a station where payroll taxes are taken out.
From there, students move on to address investments, purchasing a car, insuring it and keep it fueled, buying a home, handling a mortgage and finding insurance.  They also deal with purchasing groceries, having a pet and a number of other common life occurrences.
The program also has obstacles like illness or legal troubles that are thrown at students.
“There are those chance kind of situations built into it,” said personal finance teacher Cheri Frankwick.

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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