We Should Teach Personal Finance In High School

If you are a regular reader of us at My University Money you know that I teach high school. I teach a variety of humanities courses and a couple business classes. In my opinion, most of the basic curriculums out there for teaching about the world of business and basic personal finance are either outdated or weren’t very good to begin with. Fortunately, I have been given a high degree of autonomy to teach my generic “business” course the way I feel would be most beneficial to my students. This has left me with a semi-experimental curriculum that I am testing out.

I Think There Should Be More Personal Finance In High School

I believe the main starting point should be showing students the connections between their daily purchases (how they handle money) and how that affects the world around them. Once they realize that their labour makes money for someone else, and that some of them spend all their money on instant gratification, the hope is that they will realize the power that comes with a true understanding of basic business principles and personal finance knowledge.

Personal Finance In High School
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This is much easier said than done. I don’t know if you have met the average North American teenager lately, but they are an interesting intellectual challenge, to say the least. Teenagers will always have an intrinsic difficulty understanding the logic behind saving and delayed gratification because their brain and life experiences are completely dedicated to getting as much stimulus as they can right now…right this second…HURRY! The power of compound interest (both negative and positive) is so tough for them to grasp because the idea of twenty years is so foreign to them given that they have only been on the planet for 15 or so.

Personal Finance In High School – Its As Easy As Using Everyday Examples

To combat this mindset I try to take everyday examples that affect their lives and use these to explain problems. One student actually asked me why the price of marijuana can go up or down so much within a few weeks. After giving him the usual quick teacher talk on the problems with drug use, I tried to explain that drugs were an ultimate example of supply and demand. Since we were on the theme of drug abuse I showed how a smoker was actually the perfect model for becoming a millionaire. If you simply put the same amount into a basic bond ladder that you would spend on a pack of smokes (or even half a pack of smokes every day) you would easily be a millionaire by 55 or so. Many of them decided they would rather buy a brand new truck in 7 years than be a millionaire in 35, but at least they understood the power of saving and compound interest.

Another concept I try to get through to them is to think about their everyday expenses. Many of my students are obsessed with getting the nicest car possible. They actually save with remarkable efficiency when they keep their eyes on the prize. Finally the big day comes and they buy a car that they can’t really afford (some even go on payment plans much to their business teacher’s chagrin) and it sits in their yard. They forgot to factor in insurance, drivers license costs, maintenance, and man the price of gas just keeps going up! Who would have guessed?

Personal Finance In High School – Its Painful To See How Something So Important Is Forgotten About

The main problem I run into is simply an apathetic attitude towards learning some of the basic concepts that could save them thousands of dollars over the course of their lives. I desperately want them to realize what an opportunity they have to learn about mortgages, credit cards, supply and demand, and investment opportunities. I was wondering if any of you out there in the blogosphere had any ideas or tips for helping a grade ten student understand some of the principles behind personal finance? I have many friends that I see bleed money every month because they have no concept of where it’s going or what their eventual financial goals are. My hope is that I can help many (I’m a realist, you never reach everyone) of my students avoid this fate. Many of you are probably helping (or have helped) your son and/or daughter take their first steps into the adult world of money, what were your priorities as far as starting points?

In an ideal world, by the time every student left my class they would have an understanding of the basic macro-economic principles behind business. Beyond that I want them to understand just how strong a force compound interest can be in a credit card account and in an investment account. I am interested to know how many of you out there believe it is possible for grade ten students to understand that capitalism really helps create momentum for those that can save and become owners, but really has limited use for people who work solely to be consumers.

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