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Financial Curriculum: Classes About Money Management

This article was written by in Education. 5 comments.


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. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar cashgoat

I’m torn on this issue. I agree that the curriculum is already overloaded and it would be better to start younger. However, there are way too many families out there that never had proper education in this area and therefore don’t agree with what the kids would be taught. Because of this, there is a good chance that everything the kids are taught at a young age would be erased in the home by the time they are old enough for it to make a difference. You would probably have a better chance of getting through to the high school age kids because they won’t have as much time for financial education to be erased by the parents. This is also about the time kids start working part time so demonstrating the benefits of retirement savings at a young age and the disadvantages of credit would make more sense to them because it would be less abstract.

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avatar iarenoob

I wish they had this in my school (I graduated in 2004) and I swear some of the classes I took were just not worth it. If they can someone put that in with Economics or just a class on its own.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,490 (Platinum)

Cashgoat: You bring up an interesting point about earlier school lessons being erased by negative models at home. I think that it’s important to lay the groundwork early but reinforcement is important. The parents are powerful forces in the development of values, which is why school programs will only be as successful as the parents’ attitudes.

This is different than mathematics classes, where in most cases, the only education is coming from teachers; parents are not at home modeling bad calculus or geometry habits.

iarenoob: I’m a proponent of including lessons in basic money management in *home* economics classes.

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avatar thomas

I’m actually a big proponent for financial education in school. I can’t remember the last time I had to bust out the pythagoras theorum, but I do know I work with money EVERY day. Whether it’s buying lunch, paying bills, or getting my paycheck, I’m influenced greatly by money.

When I was in grade school, I took an elective “Checking and Banking” and it was the greatest class ever. You learned how to write checks, balance your checking book, and how interest works.

Too many kids today don’t know about money and the true value, yet they are tested on finding the radius of a circle or what a dangling participle is.

Maybe it’s me, but I feel school needs a more trade school approach. Take classes and learn about things you will use in your everyday life and save the other stuff for electives.

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avatar Cass ♦0 (Newbie)

The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done. ~ Jean Piaget

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