A few years ago, my World History class and I were discussing economics. They opined that while basic personal financial skills should be part of family discussions, realistically they are not. They admitted they did not know basic finance, but they wanted to. So together, we worked out a list of personal finance topics that would make for a pragmatic semester class.  

financial-literacyI took their proposed syllabus to the Curriculum Committee in 2009 to introduce the class. Unfortunately, it was denied at the time because it was suggested that it would impact too few students. So instead, I offered the lessons as part of the “Senior Seminar,” a series of workshops on real-life, #adulting topics. My Financial Literacy Seminar has created many conversations over the years, and alumni have returned, or emailed, to say how valuable the information has been to them.

With college debt becoming such a visible problem and retarding young (and not so young) people from buying a home, getting married, or starting a family, financial literacy has national implications. While personal financial literacy is not (yet) part of the college application process, recently, colleges like the University of Arizona have begun offering more advice and seminars for their freshmen on the topic. Additionally, federal laws have changed regarding the minimum age to get a credit card, and there is evidence that 20-somethings are learning about the benefits of an all-cash economy from 30-somethings. Still, personal finance problems persist.  

For those who cannot attend my Financial Literacy Seminar, the marketplace of solutions for managing debt has many fabulous--and totally free--paper and digital modules that more and more schools are adopting.  

  1. Jump$tart Coalition, with many personal finance resources for students, has an annual conference. I have attended three of them, one in Chicago, one in Ohio and one in Washington, D.C. with Tampa Prep’s CFO Stephen Garrett, who was equally interested in the best model for establishing financial literacy in a college prep school. All of these conferences were free, and phenomenally informative. Jump$tart and its sponsors paid for everything except the plane fare. We were overwhelmed by the scope of this initiative.

  2. Next Gen, started by a wealthy entrepreneur and thus not limited to a specific sponsor is probably my favorite. Next Gen and the academic team package everything up for teachers, and their resource links are growing. I get a daily economic question and a monthly update complete with a Kahoot quiz and google slide presentation to share with students.

  3. Foolproofme is exceptional. It has a growing presence in Florida’s schools, and markets itself as a program that creates “critical thinking and healthy skepticism” as two of its core tenets.

  4. Everfi is interesting. Its niche is its connection of finance to STEM.  

  5. Wells Fargo has a robust--and growing--host of information with its “Hands-on Banking,” while Visa hosts “Practical Money Skills,” an interactive football game in conjunction with the NFL. There is a FIFA/World Cup soccer version that is extremely popular, too.

5moneySince that fateful rejection of my financial literacy course so many years ago, times have changed. Today, several of our faculty have offerings available for students interested in learning to manage their money.

  1. Brian Sarkozy, a math teacher, proposed an Algebra class that is a combination of advanced algebra and personal finance. It was approved and will begin in the 2019-2020 school year.

  2. Economics teacher Barry Parks’s class has an entire personal finance unit.  

  3. We are also developing age-appropriate integration of personal finance for every grade level to help our students prepare to make sound and critical financial choices.

Many of our students hold jobs, have direct deposit, pay taxes, and contribute to a 401K retirement fund. But many more do not. It is a goal of mine to ensure that all our students graduate with enough knowledge to be not just academically prepared, but also financially successful well into their futures.