teaching financial literacy to teenagers

Teaching Financial Literacy to Teenagers

It’s tax season and while most adults are struggling to file their taxes, students in Mrs. Kelly Rodowsky’s Economics and Mr. Hagenau’s Personal Finance classes are already prepared for the day they will have to make big financial decisions and file taxes of their own.

Adulting 101 is a project completed by all juniors and seniors in Mrs. Rodowsky’s Economics class.

This project requires students to research entry-level salaries for the careers they are planning to pursue(minus state and federal income taxes based on the location in which they plan to live, which they have to research and calculate) and create a real world budget.

The budget includes:

  • an emergency fund
  • retirement savings
  • health insurance
  • student loans
  • housing
  • transportation
  • lifestyle
  • an optional credit card

Mrs. Rodowsky loves watching as her students slowly realize just how much thought and preparation goes into each dollar earned and spent.

Students are constantly having “lightbulb” moments as they piece together how they will live independently — whether it is realizing why their parents discourage them from taking out student loans, or why they should put extra funds into an “Emergency Fund” as opposed to spending it on a new car payment.

Learning how to manage finances based on a real-world budget is just one way during this semester-long elective that these students prepare for “adulting.”

Other Economics projects include:

  • creating a Utopian society
  • researching a favorite clothing company’s practices to see if they align with personal values
  • creating a music video based on an International Trade Organization of choice

In Mr. Paul Hageneau’s Personal Finance class, a required course for all seniors, students learn the basics of personal finance and smart money management.

Mr. Hageneau’s own personal subtitle for this class is “How to Retire Rich on a Teacher’s Salary.”

In this class he offers valuable nuggets of financial advice intertwined with detailed information about topics many adults don’t fully understand.

Topics covered include:

  • Retirement savings
  • Auto insurance
  • Stocks and mutual funds
  • Wills and trusts
  • Investments
  • Debt management

Lifelong habits that Mr. Hageneau has implemented in his own life he passes along to his students such as:

  • Resisting the pull of advertising
  • Buying quality used items as opposed to new
  • Living below your means
  • Prioritizing wants and splurges (travel or buy those expensive shoes?)

As all teachers do at Academy, he goes above and beyond to help his students. A student approached Mr. Hageneau with a $500 birthday check from a grandparent and asked if Mr. Hageneau would help him open up a bank account. And he did. He even went so far as bringing his student to the bank to help him do it correctly.

Financial Literacy is such an important skill that far too many recent-graduates lack and in a world where college students are entering the workplace already inundated with student loan debt it is a crucial skill to teach before they have to start making these big financial decisions.