Teaching personal finance
Should schools teach financial responsibility?
By Mike Zummo
There is a perception that school systems are not instilling children with the necessary skills to manage their affairs in life.
One area that may be neglected is the area of personal finance.
According to Lend EDU, only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance.
New Jersey has the most detailed requirements with regards to teaching finance. The state divides its curriculum into six strands with benchmarks that need to be reached after fourth, eighth and 12th grades. New York has less of a requirement and Pennsylvania has none.
Income and Careers
Credit and Debt Management
Planning, Saving and Investing
Becoming a Critical Consumer
Insuring and Protecting
“If I could go back, I would have wanted this class,” said Vernon Township High School teacher Ed Flannery, who teaches financial literacy. “I think about all the financial mistakes I’ve made – waiting until 23 to get a credit card, not understanding how to pay back loans make deposits to the bank – this class would have helped prepare me.”
Vernon’s class is geared mostly toward financial literacy, which includes budgeting, managing a checkbook all through the many different types of insurance. It also teaches students how to file taxes.
The state requires students to complete a half-year course in financial, economic and entrepreneurial literacy.
According to Flannery, the school started offering the course in 2010 and at first, no one took it. He said it became a requirement in 2011 and all of a sudden there were hundreds of students that needed to take the course immediately.
Flannery said feedback from the students has said the course is essential.
“They’re actually going to use this,” Flannery said. “They’ll come back after their first year of college and say ‘I understand how to manage my bank account’. You can’t imagine a situation where a kid’s going to say, ‘I won’t handle money’.”
Flannery said budgeting is essential and students need to know they have to make a plan. They also need to understand how to focus on needs rather than wants and how to manage money so they have discretionary income. They also learn what an insurance co-pay is and after taking the course learn about the different types of car insurance.
“This course gives them what they need before they have to learn from experience,” Flannery said.
Knowing how to understand credit also is important as well as ow to build it.
“Credit is the thing you want to build when you don’t need it,” Flannery said.
He said that doesn’t mean students should run off and tell their parents they need a credit card. He said it’s important to pay it off at the end of every month and prove they can be smart with it.
“You need a foundational principal said when you hear the words, they make sense,” Flannery said.
New YorkNew York state requires students to take a half-year economics course to graduate.
Schools in New York are encouraged to administer the economics requirement through a course titled Economics, the Enterprise System and Finance during senior year in high school.
Schools, however, are not required to teach this course to satisfy the economics requirement.
Eric Hassler, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District said the district has no courses specifically designed to teach personal finance.
However, he said the district offers a number of courses that have personal finance woven into them, including Parenting, Teenage Life Skills and College 101.
“Those courses are offered by our Family and Consumer Science Dept., as well as our Business Dept.
Warwick Valley Central School District Assistant Superintendent for Currriculum & Instructional Services James Yap said the district has several courses — Financial Literacy, Financial Algebra, and Consumer Math — that deal with personal finance.
In addition the state-required Economics course touches on personal finance.
“The reason for the three courses is that it meets the needs of all students,” Yap said.
Danielle Linguanti teaches a Business Math class at Goshen High School that teaches some personal finance concepts.
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania does not require any specific financial courses for students to graduate. The state requires students to pass assessments to demonstrate competency in key areas, but personal finance concepts are not included.
According to the Pennsylvania 2016 Report to the Governor on Personal Finance Education, 75 of the state’s 500 school districts (15 percent) require students to take a course in personal finance, up from 38 in 2013.
This growth is in response to a measure passed in 2010, establishing the state’s Task Force on Economic Education and Personal Finance Education.
The law also requires the Dept. of Education and the Dept. of Banking and Securities to issue a biennial report to the governor and General Assembly regarding the status of economic and personal finance education in the state’s schools.