Financial Literacy for Teens
Most people would agree that money is an important topic to learn about. But who should be teaching teens financial literacy? Parents? Schools? What should be taught? And realistically, HOW does financial literacy fit in with the traditional high school curriculum?
Who is equipped to teach financial literacy?
In an ideal world, parents would teach their children financial literacy skills from an early age. But in the actual world, many parents struggle to put food on the table. Paying bills takes precedence over explaining tax rates and mortgage interest. Most parents have a difficult time understanding car loans, credit card interest rates, and the difference between a traditional and a Roth IRA themselves, let alone explaining such topics to their (sometimes surly) teens.
But are teachers any better equipped to teach financial literacy? Are teachers as a group better or worse at personal finance, than the families they serve? The truth is that the majority of teachers AND parents need guidance and direction to help their students/children become capable and money-savvy.
How can parents and teachers learn about financial literacy?
They don’t teach financial literacy in “teacher school”, nor do they in “parent school” (is that a thing? 😉) There are thousands of books about a variety of money-related topics. There are also money magazines (Kiplinger’s, Money, Forbes to name a few), as well as Instagram accounts, YouTube and Tik-Tok videos, and podcasts galore. You name it, and it exists out there on the Internet. There are also online courses about budgeting, investing, and living frugally. More companies are targeting young people, women, and the DIY investor these days than ever before. Many large banks and even smaller credit unions offer educational materials to help children learn some of the basics.
The information exists out there in the universe, it is up to the parent/teacher to use whatever platform they are comfortable with to learn the information before passing it along. Teachers need to structure financial literacy lessons to keep students engaged and to see the immediate application to their only lives. Teens can be incredibly engaged when it comes to learning about money.
What topics should be taught?
It’s important for high school students to get at least some familiarity with topics they will encounter in the real world. Here are some topics that we think high school students should have at least a basic understanding of:
- Gross income vs. net Income
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Smart shopping
- Credit cards
- Buying/Leasing/Renting a Car
- Buying a home/mortgages
- Health and life Insurance
- Investing and retirement
Our students should have a basic understanding of these topics so that they can be smart with their money when they get their first job and enter adulthood.
How does financial literacy fit into high school requirements?
The current math requirements at most high schools do not allow much time for “extra” math classes. If students are University-bound, they are often required to take the standard, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 series. Some students use their senior year to take Pre-Calculus and Calculus. So where does a Business Math/Consumer Math/Financial Literacy class fit into the traditional sequence? Truthfully, until we take a harder look at adjusting the math sequences required for graduation and college, Financial Literacy will most likely land among “optional” electives. One semester is a perfect length of time for a financial literacy course, but if that length of time is not available, the topics can be included as part of a Life Skills course in conjunction with non-money topics, or spread out during a homeroom course.
It’s important for students to know that you do NOT need to be a “mathemagician” to be good with money. Knowing the terminology and application to real life is what counts.
Schools and districts must decide if financial literacy is important enough to be a graduation requirement, and they must provide the resources for the teachers to use with their students. We created a consumer math course with both students and teachers in mind that covers all of the basics of financial literacy. Whether you have experience or need some guidance, we are here to help! Feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions.