While high schoolers around the country may be familiar with lessons on economics, students at Turlock Christian High School are now experts in financial literacy following the first year of a new course – Foundations in Personal Finance.
In light of the nation’s $1.4 trillion student loan epidemic and $1 trillion credit card debt load carried by most Americans, schools throughout California are teaching students money management skills that will help them make sound financial decisions in the future. TCHS 12th grade Government and Economics teacher Laura Schmitt taught Ramsey Solution’s Foundations in Personal Finance course for the first time this past fall semester, helping students learn the value of saving, spending and giving.
“Debt is so rampant in our society, and once you get into debt it’s so hard to get out,” said Schmitt. “It affects your whole life and it’s so important to be able to get off on the right foot, budget and have your money work for you instead of against you.”
In the Foundations in Personal Finance course, Schmitt helps students learn important money management techniques, like how to save for their future, how to create a budget and how to avoid accumulating student loan debt.
“We try to teach them how to finance their education in different ways other than taking out student loans, like applying for grants and having a plan early on,” said Schmitt. “We teach them about loans and their pitfalls – how long it takes to pay them off, and how it affects their lives after college. If they’re bogged down with student loan debt, then they’re bogged down in life and not able to do what they want to do.”
Another important lesson taught in the class is how to negotiate deals when purchasing things – a skill that Schmitt said many students are unfamiliar with. One particular student took advantage of the lesson, however, walking onto a car lot with $10,000 and leaving with a car valued at $16,000.
“He told me, ‘yeah, I just listened to Dave’s advice to be quiet, not say anything and let the salesman do the talking,’” said Schmitt, her student referring to businessman and author Dave Ramsey, who designed the high school course. “No one teaches these kids how to bargain unless their parents do it, and a lot of the times, they don’t.”
A student who raises rabbits found the course useful as well, utilizing her new budgeting knowledge to create a spending plan for her rabbits’ supplies.
“She was excited about how a budget could help her keep track of what supplies she buys,” said Schmitt.
Schmitt typically teaches Economics in the fall and Government in the spring, she said, but since the class was unable to cover everything in the finance course in one semester, some topics may carry over into this semester, like investing, retirement and taxes.
“I remember in my high school we learned how to balance checkbooks because everyone used them. But they don’t use them anymore, and a lot of kids don’t even recognize what a spreadsheet looks like,” said Schmitt. “It’s a fun course, and I think it’s really important.”