Contrary to popular belief, the point of an education isn’t simply to take tests and get good grades. The true purpose of school is to prepare students to become well-adjusted, educated, and prepared adults and citizens. In addition to the traditional school subjects, that also means practical lessons such as money management.
One day, students will be responsible for their own finances, a prospect that can be intimidating for many young adults. Learning about money management in school will give them the head start they need when they reach the adult world and the workforce. Money management lessons aren’t just for high schoolers either. With the right lessons, you can begin to teach students how to be responsible with finances as early as elementary school.
Learning Money Management in Elementary School
Elementary school students may be a long way off from their first jobs or paying taxes. But they can still explore the fundamentals of money management, beginning with learning our nation’s history with money and participating in classroom activities that boost their understanding of the economy. In fact, the earlier students start learning, the more they will be able to understand money management as they get older. Here are a couple of lessons that can help:
- It’s in Your Pocket: This lesson plan comes straight from The Constitution Center and teaches students all about the history of money in the United States. Ever wondered why the federal government took responsibility for minting money? Or what the symbols on coins and dollars mean and why they’re there? This lesson plan will teach students all of that, as well as the similarities and differences between each coin and dollar.
- Creating a Classroom Economy Unit Plan: Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing. Through this Scholastic lesson plan, you can introduce your students to the economy by setting up a classroom bank and shop complete with credits and debits. Students will be given a classroom “job” with a salary, balance their credits and debits, budget based on their income, and spend at the classroom store. By the end of the year, students can take on the role of entrepreneur and sell goods that they’ve made themselves. It’s a fun way to mimic how the economy works in the real world and prepare students to manage money as they get older.
Learning Money Management in Middle and High School
As students get older, they’ll begin moving toward their first jobs. They may want to save up for college, or they may be starting to think about the careers they want to move into once they’re finished with their education. Tied up in all of those things is money, and the proper management of it. These lessons in money management are more complex, for students who see their own finances as a more looming inevitability. Some lessons you can teach include:
- Why Pay Taxes?: When it comes to finances, one of the most daunting topics to students is taxes. After all, taxes can be intimidating even to adults who have been paying them for years. And the failure to pay them can have serious consequences. This lesson from the IRS breaks down why it’s important to pay taxes, the history of taxation, and how the money from taxes is put back into our society. The Constitution Center also has resources for lessons on taxes for middle and high school students, including this important lesson on Tax Day.
- Financial Literacy: If students want to have a good grasp on their own finances one day, they need to first understand how money works. What is the difference between net income and gross income? What about expenses? What should students take into account when it comes to their budget? Fortunately, The Mint has a series of lessons all designed to boost financial literacy. These lessons can help students understand financial planning and avoid impulsive financial decisions going forward.
- Personal Budget: Once young adults are on their own and paying bills themselves, a personal budget is a must. The budget will break down all the expenses you’ll have to pay for the month, in addition to how you’ll spend the rest of your money. How much can you spend on entertainment? On groceries? On that morning coffee you need to get going? For this lesson, Intuit Mint offers a series of budget templates that students can use as an example to put together their first budget.