Earlier this year, I shared my opinion that personal finance classes should not be required in high school thanks to an overloaded general curriculum and dubious results. My opinion is that basic money management is better taught — if in school at all — in the earlier years.
The Citi Foundation sponsors a financial education program, offering a curriculum appropriate for kindergarten through eighth grade as well as adults. High school students might be able to relate to the lessons for adults. The curriculum includes lesson plans, handouts, and tips for teachers. The program is quite comprehensive.
Here are the suggested lessons for third through fifth grade:
“What Matters Most?” How many times in a single day do you use the words needs and wants? Do you know the difference in the two words? Do you have the same wants and needs as your best friend? You just might be surprised. Continue with this activity to learn more about wants and needs.
“Is It Really Worth It?” What makes you buy things? Do your friends encourage you to buy things that you really do not need? Continue with this activity to become a “Smart Shopper”.
“Where Does My Money Go?” Have you ever wanted to do something or buy something – but you didn’t have the money you needed? What happened to your money? Continue with this activity to learn how to manage your money.
“Which is Better – Piggy bank or Savings Account?” Do you have any pennies or nickels in your pocket? Take a coin out and look at it. Have you ever wished that the nickel you are holding would become a quarter or even a dollar? Continue with this activity to learn how you can save money and make it grow.
The included lessons plans are conceived well and can easily be related to state and federal educational standards. The adult/high school lessons are mildly interesting and would be appropriate for a short elective but not a replacement for any other required course. Citi offers lesson plans aligned with the National Standards for Financial Education (from the Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy) and the National Council for Economic Education, covering banking services, money management and credit. The full list of lessons is extensive.
For an example lesson plan, take a look at this lesson on prime and subprime lending, whose timing is appropriate.
I tend to be skeptical when it comes to corporations increasing their involvement in public education, whether explicit like Coca-Cola’s junk food exclusivity deals or subtle like Citi’s promotion of the financial curriculum.
Is there a conflict of interest? These lesson plans are developed by the non-profit foundation arm of a financial company. If these lessons are properly indoctrinated into the minds of today’s youth, the eventual outcome includes more assets under banks’ and brokers’ management. The success of the financial services industry depends on the public knowledge of these services. Citi has a vested interest in spreading the word about good money management habits, which include the use of banks like CitiBank. On the other hand, the industry is well poised to provide some of the best information about the skills necessary for the financial survival of future generations.
If you don’t like corporate involvement, there is another choice for curriculum information. The National Endowment for Financial Education is “the only private, nonprofit, national foundation wholly dedicated to improving the financial well-being of all Americans,” and their High School Financial Planning Program. From what I can tell from GuideStar, this organization has no corporate contributors.
Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published September 20, 2007.