What a difference 20 years makes! When I was a senior in high school, there were no cell phones, no Internet or Quicken software to help me budget or reconcile my expenses. I had to manually balance my checkbook and use a paper ledger to track my spending and maintain my budget. In today's world, I've become further removed from my old-school basics and rely on mint.com to budget and track expenses. Understandably these changes affect the way I manage money and ultimately the way I educate my son about its value.
Many high school students want to learn about financial literacy, but have not been taught either because their parents don't have the financial prowess or their high school didn't make it a requirement for graduation. In recent years, area high schools have realized the value of providing a personal finance class as part of the curriculum, rather than lumping it into a math or social studies class.
"I believe basic finance 101 should be a required course in every school district," comments Jonathan E. Bernstein, CFP, CPA, PFS, Director of Financial Planning, Hudson Wealth Management, LLC. "Knowing how to balance a checkbook is a lost skill. Either manually or with any type of software such as Quicken or QuickBooks each person should reconcile their account on a monthly basis."
"Anytime you can teach the kids something and let them know it is something they will use in life, helps to peak their interest. Real life situations are always great, like balancing someone's checkbook, pretending to find the tip after a meal, sales tax, commission, etc." comments Maria P. Grzyb, college math teacher, New Hampshire Institute of Art. "One of my students told me she took a consumer math class in high school and she thought it was very helpful. We were talking about decimals and balancing a checkbook."
Engage students by playing a stock market game, such as www.stockmarketgame.com. Hands-on learning creates real-life experiences that students can relate to. Tie economics and personal finance lessons into their experiences in the game and make it fun.
It is also important to teach your teen to say no to credit card offers. Once they turn 18 and enter the real world credit card offers will fill their mailboxes and at every turn on campus with offers of a free Frisbee if they sign up for a credit card. Share with your teen, the"Quest for Credit" video from Mint.com – an entertaining cartoon showing how credit really works. View it on YouTube at goo.gl/ShHXCA.
As I've discussed in previous articles, Bernstein reiterates the importance of saving. "Once your teen has a job, you should determine how they should save. For example, they may only make enough money to cover expenses. However, if you can "match," let them save as much as they can up to $100 per month and try to match their contribution. Teach them the benefit of putting money away each month and how you can "dollar cost average" by investing monthly. If it is for college, consider a 529 Plan; otherwise a savings account or a brokerage account."
"The bottom line is parents can teach by example and both learn the benefit to save instead of spending. Once your teen sees how hard it is to earn money they may think twice before spending as much," concludes Bernstein.
Providing teens personal finance knowledge while in high school gives them a fighting chance to change the way they look at credit, how they budget money and save for the future. And, possibly stay debt-free.
Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom to an active 4½ -year-old. She is always thinking about economics and uses her time with her son as teachable moments.