Studies show that students are more likely to budget, save and manage their credit after they take a financial literacy class. But we don’t just want students to be financially literate, we want them to be financially capable, so they have the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions about their money throughout their lives. A well-rounded personal finance curriculum should cover a range of topics that go beyond basic financial literacy. Essential topics that every personal finance curriculum should include are behavioral finance, cash flow management, independent living, and credit. For a sample personal finance curriculum outline, which includes links to our Money Path app as well as our Money Sense On Demand modules focusing on personal finance and financial planning topics, click here.
Behavioral finance/financial mindset
Understanding the psychological aspects of personal finance is crucial for making sound financial decisions. This topic delves into consumer skills, exploring how advertising, social media, peer pressure, and sales tactics can influence students’ spending habits. It also covers understanding their financial personality, and identifying whether they are a spender, saver, risk taker, or someone who is cautious with their finances. Exploring personal values around finances helps students align their financial goals with their core beliefs and priorities.
Understanding cash flow
Managing cash flow is a fundamental aspect of personal finance. This topic covers the basics of money management, including understanding the flow of money in and out of accounts. It encompasses creating and maintaining budgets, distinguishing between expenses, needs, and wants, developing saving habits, and analyzing pay stubs or earning statements to grasp the complete picture of students’ income and deductions.
As teens embark on their independent lives, they face a range of financial decisions and responsibilities. This topic explores various aspects, including taxes, career choices, and education decisions that impact earning potential. It also covers renting an apartment, understanding leases and tenant rights, buying a car, navigating insurance options, saving for retirement, and managing a bank account effectively.
Credit plays a significant role in many financial aspects of students’ lives. Understanding credit scores and reports, including how they are calculated and the factors that influence them is incredibly important. Explaining responsible credit card usage, loans, and borrowing, while emphasizing the importance of managing credit effectively to achieve financial goals is an integral part of a personal finance curriculum. Students need to learn how to build credit, maintain a positive credit history, and make informed decisions when applying for loans or credit cards.
In addition to a comprehensive curriculum, educators have access to various tools and resources to enhance personal finance education for high school students. One such tool is Money Path, an interactive online platform that provides engaging lessons and activities tailored to different age groups. Money Path offers real-life scenarios and simulations that enable students to practice financial decision-making in a safe and controlled environment. This Scaffolding Guide gives examples of how to use Money Path in grades 10 through 12. According to the 2023 WeAreTeachers Survey: TheState of Financial Literacy Instruction in U.S. Schools, 84% of high school teachers surveyed said they are looking for hands-on activities and that’s just what Money Path provides.
Here’s how Money Path can help with each essential topic:
- The app uses behavioral science principles to direct users toward better financial decisions. For example, features like progress bars showing how long it will take to achieve their goal priorities based on their available monthly savings. And visual cues like a line graph illustrating how their retirement savings can grow over time with the power of compound growth. These features help encourage saving and discourage impulsive spending. By using psychological techniques, the app can help students overcome common behavioral biases and make choices aligned with their long-term financial well-being.
- One way Money Path helps students understand and manage cash flow is through expense tracking. Students can enter and categorize their expenses to get a clear picture of where their money is going. It also allows students to create a budget and allocate their income to different expense categories. By setting spending limits for each category, users can monitor their actual expenses against their budgeted amounts. This helps them understand how their spending aligns with their financial goals and whether they need to make adjustments to their budget to improve cash flow.
- The ability to goal set is one way that Money Path helps students to learn about independent living. The app allows students to set financial goals, such as saving for rent, setting up an emergency fund, or putting a down payment on a car or home. By setting specific goals related to independent living, students can stay focused and motivated to achieve financial independence.
- To establish strong credit, it’s crucial for students to have the financial means to pay off their credit card balances every month. With the Money Path app, students gain the ability to compare starting salaries across various career paths, enabling them to understand how their chosen profession influences their monthly spending and saving habits. This insight directly impacts their capacity to meet their financial obligations and maintain a favorable credit history.
Reality Check Day
Another effective tool in personal finance curriculum is the implementation of reality check days or reality fairs, where students are exposed to real-world financial scenarios and challenges. These events allow students to make financial decisions based on their future career choices, understand the cost of living, and gain practical insights into managing their finances. Money Path is an excellent tool for large group or multi-grade level career and personal financial planning activities such as those.
Inviting guest speakers who are experts in personal finance or professionals from relevant industries can be immensely valuable as well. These guest speakers can relate the concepts to where teenagers are in life, making the information more impactful. Students can benefit from hearing personal stories, practical tips, and real-life examples from these experts, providing them with a deeper understanding of personal finance and its applications in their lives.
Building a strong financial foundation
A comprehensive personal finance curriculum should empower students with the knowledge and skills to navigate the intricacies of their financial lives successfully. By incorporating topics such as behavioral finance, understanding cash flow, independent living, and credit, students can develop a strong foundation for financial well-being. Personal finance is a lifelong journey, and continuous learning and adaptation are key to achieving financial security and freedom. By mastering these essential topics, students can make informed decisions, build healthy financial habits, and work toward achieving their long-term financial goals. Schedule a live demo today and bring your students the personal finance activities they’re looking for!