Financial Literacy 5 Ways

Are you talking to your students about money? This week, we’re exploring how high schools are—and aren’t!—teaching financial literacy.

By Hana Beach

Are you talking to your students about money? This week, we’re exploring how high schools are—and aren’t!—teaching financial literacy skills that will set them up for stability and success as an adult. That’s why we invite you to earn your Financial Literacy Badge and sign up for XQ’s free introductory course aimed towards helping students feel confident when navigating personal finances. Students, families, and pretty much anyone who’s ever made a budget or paid a bill know that financial literacy is a critical life skill—and yet many students leave high school financially unprepared.  

We all want students to graduate feeling confident and capable, and we all want them to be prepared for the world both academically and practically. Knowing how to work towards financial well-being is a huge part of that! It’s also a matter of equity, a crucial tool in empowering students from low-income backgrounds to plan for financial success. The resources we’ve included will explore what financial literacy means for today’s students, why it matters, and how you can teach financial skills so they actually stick.

If the phrase “financial literacy” makes you think of balancing a checkbook and stashing pennies for a rainy day, you’re not alone! However, setting your students up for financial success in today’s world means expanding traditional ideas of personal finance.

Why It Matters: Teaching financial literacy isn’t about giving your students a fixed blueprint or set of tricks. It’s about giving them the skills and confidence to achieve their personal financial goals within our larger economic context. A strong financial literacy curriculum should include topics like:

  • Entrepreneurship and how to market ideas
  • Global economics
  • Personal finance technology
  • Investment strategies

Extra Credit: She Struggled With Money for Years and Won’t Let Her Students Make the Same Mistakes

Roth vs traditional IRAs? Tax withholdings and deductions? Communicating the nitty gritty of financial literacy to your students can be a lot! Luckily, we’ve got you covered with Adulting 101, our personal finance guide for high schoolers. 

Why It Matters: Whether your students are excited, anxious, or just confused about the financial decisions of adulthood, this guide is an accessible tool to help them get started. We’ve broken down the important points of how to set yourself up for success by:

  • Making a budget
  • Building and protecting your credit score
  • Investing to grow savings and wealth
  • Filing taxes

Extra Credit: Financial literacy can hold key to college success

All students benefit from access to quality financial education, but we know that it’s especially crucial for students from low-income backgrounds who don’t have a financial safety net. 

Why It Matters: According to Next Gen Personal Finance, students from low-income backgrounds who could most benefit from financial literacy education are the least likely to get it. Closing this gap is critical, as financial literacy classes yield concrete benefits for these students, like improving credit outcomes. Ways to increase access include:

  • Making financial literacy courses required for all students
  • Partnering with outside organizations for hands-on learning experiences
  • Expanding financial literacy education across school years, beyond a one-semester course

Extra Credit: American Kids Are Really Bad at Handling Money

When all is said and done, you want students to leave your class with skills they will actually rely on when faced with decisions that matter, like budgeting, credit, and loans. So how do we teach these skills in a way that truly sticks? 

Why It Matters: Not all financial literacy curricula are created equal! Empowering students with knowledge that will yield real life outcomes takes more than discussing and memorizing facts and tips about money. NPR breaks down several research-backed approaches that work, including:

  • Focusing on research skills, so students can find what they need well after class is over
  • Experiential learning, like tracking the stock market
  • Doubling down on math skills
  • Using a ‘just-in-time’ model to focus on issues that are most immediately relevant to students

Extra Credit: Financial Literacy: Addressing Student, Family, and Community Needs

One of the first big financial decisions many high schoolers will make is how to finance college. This decision can be overwhelming; financial literacy skills can help. 

Why It Matters: The student debt crisis makes a powerful case for why the need for financial literacy education is so urgent. Grounded in financial literacy, you can help your students navigate this tough decision by gathering information, considering all the options, and making an informed plan based on their goals and priorities. Some questions to consider:

  • How do costs of different college pathways (i.e., in state vs. out of state) compare?
  • What payment options are available? 
  • How can I make a college budget?
  • What are the risks and benefits of taking out loans?

Extra Credit: Money Moves: The Push For Financial Literacy In Schools

Defy the statistics by empowering yourself with the knowledge of how to earn, save, borrow, and protect your finances with the help of high school math. Earn your badge, and share your achievement! Click “Login to Enroll” to get started. If you don’t have a Rethink Together account already, you can get one here

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