Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Preparing students for real-world financial success

Students often begin pursuing employment as early as high school, but they are not taught best practices when it comes to managing their money. Everyone should know how to make healthy financial decisions, yet it is rarely found in the high school curriculum. While the new Common Core Standards stress the importance of career readiness, it’s not clear in what context students would learn strategies for real world financial concerns--like staying out of debt and the benefits of having good credit.

Whether or not we are teaching this, students are watching it. It is not unusual for a young person to witness from their own family how smart choices can lead to a comfortable lifestyle or how one mistake with your personal finances can take years to erase. Knowing which is which can indeed lead to not only career, but also life, success. Despite the obvious necessity of this, it seems as though it is kept as some sort of secret, or in some cases, it is almost a shameful topic. The result is that in many cases neither families nor schools are helping students understand the importance of building credit, planning for the future or knowing how to think about life after work, how to save, or knowing when to take social security benefits.

Another issue to think about, even in high school, is insurance. While teenagers may feel they are invincible, it won’t be long before they should be worrying about car, health, and life insurance. When does it make sense to purchase a policy? What are you covered by from your family? What age do you need to start thinking about this?

Unlike some core knowledge, these are things that our entire society needs for success regardless of their life or career pursuits. Therefore, it is something that should be explicitly incorporated into student learning. Our new Common Core Curriculum focuses on the following areas in high school.
  • Number and Quantity
  • Algebra
  • Functions
  • Modeling
  • Geometry
  • Statistics & Probability

Educators need to start thinking about where it is they will incorporate these real-world readiness skills into the standards. Incorporating such teaching can not only help students prepare, but can also support their parents in making smart decisions about their financial health and wellness.


  1. I agree! In my junior high typing class I teach a unit where students are simulating a college student and they have to manage their budget. They get to choose a job, apartment, how much money to spend on food and entertainment, whether to get a car or take the bus, etc. Each month they get random life events such as a flat tire, stolen backpack, money from Mom and Dad, a raise at work, and events that effect how many hours they worked (illness, cover an extra shift, bus was late). They really enjoy it, but you'd be surprised how many still choose not to change their oil or to go to work rather than retype their term paper when their computer crashes.

  2. I think the lack of financial education in the vast majority of public schools is a disgrace. High school students graduate knowing advanced math but not what profit margin is. Many graduates don't know how interest rates affect a loan payment or the amount of principal that will have to be repaid. On a 30 yr. loan for $100,000 the interest paid at 3.5% is $61,645, on the same loan with an interest rate of 8% the amount is $164,152, nobody thinks this important? I can tell you who does teach economics to children, the very wealthy, they show their kids what you need to do to accumulate wealth over the long term. As long as there is a lack of financial education in public schools we are doomed to the huge income disparity we currently have.