One of the biggest disgraces of the school system is that it often fails to teach basics that we all need for everyday life once we graduate. A prime example of this is basic personal finance. If we could get more students to graduate from high school with a basic understanding of how personal finances work so they could make good financial decisions with their money, there would be a lot less money problems in the United States. It’s a wonder the subject isn’t emphasized more in the classroom. Here are some financial topics that they don’t teach in high school, but they definitely should:
In high school, most teenagers don’t have to worry about saving their money or budgeting for rent, groceries, or bills. If they work, they usually only work so they can spend money at the movies or the mall. However, learning how to budget is an important financial topic that should be taught, as it’s probably one of the most important life lessons. Knowing how to allocate your finances each month will save you a lot of frustration. It will also help you figure out how much money you have to spend.
As a high school or college student, the idea of taking out a loan seems easy. Moreover, loans seem like free money. Of course, they quickly learn that you need to pay loans back and that loan collectors will relentlessly hound you for payments. If high school students don’t learn about loans in high school, then they definitely don’t learn about interest rates and repossession, two negative consequences that result when a loan is not paid off in full.
Insurance is a topic that briefly comes up in high school, but is rarely expanded on. High school students know that they should buy car insurance if they drive, but they’re never given a more detailed explanation about what insurance covers. It’s important to teach them about all types of insurance, from renter’s insurance to car insurance to life insurance. It’s also important to teach them how to choose a good insurance based on their specific needs and financial situation.
Debt is a scary word, especially to a high school student. However, it’s necessary to teach them about it so they can avoid falling into debt later in life. With college tuition at an all time high, it’s easy for a teenager to fall into debt. This financial topic should be taught in school in order to prepare students for the future and to teach them about managing money.
Getting a credit card can seem exciting. You suddenly have access to an easy way to buy items now and pay for them later. It’s so easy to swipe a card and not worry about paying for it until the bill arrives in the mail. This is a trap that many high school or college students fall into, and it’s a trap that they desperately need to avoid. Teaching courses around credit card management would help teach high school students about credit card debt and managing their purchases.
Credit scores rarely make the cut when finance topics come up in high school. They should, as your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your financial profile. It determines what credit cards or loans you can apply for and how insurance companies or rental agencies view you. It can even impact you getting a job. Gaining credit and keeping a high credit score is something that needs to be taught early on. It’s very easy for someone to make their credit score plummet, but it’s incredibly hard to raise a low credit score.
Interest is often discussed in math class at some point over the high school curriculum, but it’s rarely discussed in terms of real life situations. In financial terms, it’s important to discuss how interest rates work and affect both payments and statement balances. It’s especially important to teach high school students the importance of paying off a balance to avoid high interest rates, which usually occur on loans and credit card payments. Interest rates are one of the biggest wastes of money and one that should be avoided if possible.
Naturally, a high school student isn’t going to be thinking of retirement savings. At 18, why would they be thinking of something that’s at least 50 years away? However, they should be taught about the benefits of saving for their retirement. A great way to broach the topic is to tell them how much money they’ll be making by investing in a 401K. For instance, if you put in as little as $50 a week from your paycheck, you’re saving a bit more than $200 a month and $2,600 a year. Over the course of 50 years, you’ll have $130,000. If your employer matches your 401K contribution up to a certain amount, so this means you could have as much as $260,000 not even counting interest. With interest, you would have well over $1 million for a mere $50 a week.
Stocks and Investments
A lot of high schools actually teach students about stocks and investments. Schools that don’t have this in their curriculum should consider it. Stocks and investments are a great way to earn additional money. Of course, it’s an activity that needs to be carefully researched, but it’s a financial topic that students should be aware of.
Most high school students know about taxes. They’ve either had to pay income taxes or have heard their relatives complain about paying real estate, income, or federal taxes. But most students don’t realize how taxes affect them. When they get their first job, they tend to forget that their hourly or yearly salary is presented pre-taxes. Learning about taxes is an important step in helping them budget and one that should be taught so they can better manage their money.
(Photo courtesy of Nic’s events)