My son probably won’t take a personal finance class in high school. Here’s why.

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Yes, I say it all the time: the first step in preparing for retirement is to have a basic skill in financial literacy in order to avoid getting into debt, to be able to accumulate savings and to know how to invest to transform this. money in assets for the future. And, indeed, my son’s high school requires a “consumer education” course for graduation (and indeed the state requires the same for a period of at least 9 weeks and 50 minutes per year). day), which students most often encounter while taking the school’s personal finance course.

It’s a pretty fine-grained course: it covers budgeting, banking, insurance, taxes, credit cards, and while not a career planning course, it does cover the potential for probable gains and the impact this has. By all reports it’s an easy A, and my oldest son took the summer school version with no apparent alteration to his summer fun. But my second son is a camp counselor during the summer. And during the school year, he has a full load of college prep and worthy electives: English, Math, Science, Social Studies / History, Group, and a set of four years of Engineering electives. / technology fill the six available blocks. Sure, he could drop the fourth year of math or science, or skip the group, and we are told many students equate the one-semester personal finance course with a half-long art course. -semester to meet this one-semester requirement, but he’s already covered it with the group.

And the probable solution for my son? The “consumer education” requirement is defined loosely enough that they are able to take AP Macro and Micro Economics and kill two birds with one stone.

Now, not all high schools are the same, but the fixed pattern of blocks or periods of equal length is almost universal, as is the wait of four years each for each base class and, for more selective colleges, one. a foreign language (although, of course, strictly speaking this is just ‘recommended’), fine arts such as marching bands or orchestras are also strongly encouraged. How does the most ambitious student (or even a student taking advantage of programs offered in career fields such as cooking, computer science, or medicine) enroll in an additional elective course?

In addition, experts in the field of financial literacy recommend not a single course but a progressive curriculum with lessons that build on what has been learned each previous year, culminating in a final synthesis course, and Illinois State Standards take this approach, with new content and expectations for each grade – up to high school, when a single set of standards exists for the entire high school curriculum. How is this possible in the context of program blocks of equal duration?

Here’s another observation: In addition to the personal finance course offered to its students, the high school district (because in my part of the country, high school districts and elementary / middle school districts are two separate government agencies) offers community education classes, and among these are overnight sessions on topics related to personal finance, for example, an overview of investments, how to save for retirement, or advice for buyers or first-time home sellers, etc. It is not a standardized or planned curriculum, however, simply the result of various professionals in the community coming up with topics they wish to teach. And this too indicates a limitation in the way personal finance is taught, that the necessary financial knowledge and understanding changes throughout life, both with age and as the financial world changes. It is clear that high school students will need to understand basic skills in banking, lending (including the consequences of student loans) and daily financial activities. But would a high school finance degree program from ten years ago have trained students in target date retirement funds? (Hint: These funds only became common in the years following the Pension Protection Act 2006.) Would students keep the information in a unit about buying a home, until the moment? where they should use this information?

In contrast, colleges have the freedom to manage their programs flexibly. Indiana University, for example, has a program called MoneySmarts, in which students can take a set of three one-credit courses all in one semester, or one at a time depending on their schedule, or they can read articles online, listen to podcasts, or meet peer educators. Likewise, the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers credit courses, workshops, and one-on-one counseling in its Badger $ teach Financial Life Skills program.

But not everyone attends university, and even for those who do, the knowledge gained through these programs is not enough to last a lifetime. (Here’s another example: A financial education component of U.S. Army training camp produced lasting increases in retirement savings rates, but other hoped-for outcomes, such as reduced debt. credit card, only appeared in the short term and did not last.) What we really need is more financial education provided outside of school and after school. graduation, in the wider community, through a structured rather than random program, coupled with a standard that learning does not stop when a degree is awarded. This can be done through the school district or other community organizations. After all, various evangelical churches sponsor the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace courses, although they are focused on debt avoidance.

So how do we get from here to there?

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