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Teaching Personal Finance in Schools: Never too Early to Start!

Updated: Aug 29, 2018


With the state of America's economic system today, it is even more important that we train our students how to be personally responsible for their finances. I don't remember getting any formal training in this area when I was in school and chances are many of you had similar experiences. Isn't school supposed to prepare us for the real world? Could we be missing an important element in our math curriculums? 

Elementary & Middle School Personal Finance

Obviously high school is a great place to incorporate financial education into the curriculum but I believe it's never too early to start. There are many banks that have programs for elementary aged students where they will actually come into your classroom and teach your students about saving money.Most banks will give out little piggy banks to your students. Some banks even have programs where students can open a savings account and keep track of their savings on-line. PNC bank's, "Grow Up Great" program teamed up with Sesame Street to provide parents of 0-5 year olds a multimedia kit on spending, sharing, and saving.  If you can't find a bank that will provide this service for your students you could send home a survey to students to see if any parents work in the financial field and would be willing to come and speak to your class. My husband is a financial analyst so when I was teaching 4th grade he came to my classroom to talk about how he uses math in his job. He made it fun for the kids by bringing in a bag of candy and having them figure out how many pieces each student should get. They had to solve this real-world problem by figuring out how many students were in the class and how many pieces of candy were in the bag (by looking at the serving size and servings per bag).

When I taught in a resource room pull-out program for elementary and middle school students, I had an incentive program where students could earn quarters (I used play money) each day. Each student had his/her own piggy bank and could save their quarters up to buy prizes such as pencils, erasers, books, etc. My older elementary and middle school students had their own checkbooks in which they would deposit their quarters (I was also the bank) and later write a check to me for the item they wanted to purchase. The students really enjoyed this activity and it didn't take up a lot of our class time. We would dedicate the last 5 minutes or so of our class time to distribute the quarter, make deposits, or write checks. My local bank donated the checkbooks and piggy banks and even threw

in some small white boards for us to use. 

Personal Finance in High School

One of the best personal financing programs for high school students on the market today is Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance. One in four high schools across the US have implemented this program. Many schools have gotten sponsorships from local banks and businesses to purchase the curriculum. It seems like the latest trend is to go to college and finish with loads of student loans and debt that takes years to pay off. What if we taught our students how they could go to college and avoid all that debt? Dave Ramsey explains how in his exciting financial curriculum. If you enjoy reading, Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" is a must read! 

It is vital that we emphasize how to be responsible with our finances. Giving our students the opportunity to be debt free is a gift. Once we emphasize this key point we can then teach about other financial opportunities such as investing. Robert Kiyosaki's "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" is an interesting book that focuses on investing. He also has some fun games for students to learn about investing such as his "Cash Flow" games. And don't forget about the old classics like Monopoly! There is a wonderful free on-line budgeting tool called that allows you to track spending and budget. It gives you monthly charts with budget updates and helps you organize and categorize your spending. These are just a few ideas to get you started teaching personal finance to your students. If you have other ideas or resources you'd like to share with educators on this topic feel free to leave a comment below!

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