Beyond the Classroom Learning Lessons for Life in High School

Real Skills For Reality

Today, credit card companies and marketing firms target their products toward teenagers because teens are known as spenders. According to the marketing research firm, Teenage Research Unlimited, the average American teen spent more than $104 per week in 2001. The estimated spending power of teens, those aged 12 to 17 years, is expected to top $190 billion by 2006, a figure that surpasses the gross domestic product of many countries in the world. So, why aren’t teenagers learning how to use their resources? How much of the information from science or any of the other required classes do students retain or even use after completing school? Usually the only people who remember the material become teachers and they teach kids who will soon enough also forget. When was the last time you needed to know the reign of Henry VIII or the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus in the office or in life? No, it really does not come up. These classes are important and can lead to a successful future, but there are key life skills that are not taught as mandatory courses in high school. One of the most important courses that should be mandatory in high school is Personal Finance.

There are many basic principles that are needed in life and should be taught in school. In a Personal Finance course, students can learn the difference between savings and checking accounts; interest rates; how to buy a house; benefits of employment versus business ownership; principles of appreciation/depreciation and much more. As it is not innate thinking for students to save money or invest, understanding these concepts in high school can benefit students in many ways both now and in the future as they manage their finances.

As a senior in high school, I know that I benefited from the elective Personal Finance course that I took because there was so much that I did not know. The course helped me, and will help other students, consider the options in making financial decisions. With this course, students will know that their paycheck can be invested in a CD (i.e. certificate of deposit), and/or donated to charity and then only a portion spent. This required course will fill the void of parents who struggle to manage their finances and can not teach their children over dinner, as in some households. By making a Personal Finance course mandatory, schools would provide real skills for the realities of life after graduation.

The data shows that teenagers are outlandish spendthrifts. They have access to money from many sources, and with minimum wage being the highest it has ever been, education on the topic should not be minimal. A deep knowledge of good stewardship of personal finances can lead to better decision-making and a healthy financial lifestyle for today’s students, who will be tomorrow’s world leaders. Will these future world leaders be able to address their personal financial matters and then those of the world?