There’s been a lot of buzz around the phrase financial literacy recently—and with good reason. Your students need to know how to manage money in order to survive and thrive in the real world. But about 76% of millennials—the youngest generation in the workforce today—lack basic financial knowledge.(1) The sooner we equip today’s students with this kind of education, the more likely they will be to steer clear of pitfalls like debt that become a lifelong struggle for too many Americans.
Maybe you’re interested in teaching your students about finances, but you’re not sure where to start. Or perhaps you’d like to encourage your students to begin saving, but that topic just doesn’t seem to fit with your subject area. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to be a finance teacher to help your students become financially literate!
Worried about veering too far away from your standards? Don’t be. We’ve come up with some ways to educate your students about finances while still teaching your subject area’s standards.
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In fact, we’ve compiled a list of ideas of how to integrate personal finance in your lessons. Since you’re a teacher, we know you can use these tips as a springboard and then think of many more!
If you’re a music or performing/fine arts teacher:
Teaching a fine arts class gives you a chance to take a look at the starving artist stereotype and discuss how to avoid that lifestyle through wise money management. Introduce your students to the variety of career options available in music and the arts. Then challenge them to pursue their art like an entrepreneur by offering private lessons, doing freelance work, or starting a profitable art business. Discuss paying an agent, being compensated fairly for work (a challenge for any artist), avoiding financial scams that often target artists, and researching scholarships that could give your students an opportunity to hone their craft in higher education—without going into debt to do it. Chapter 5 in our Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum (“Life After High School”) or chapter 11 (“Careers and Taxes”) are great tools for any student to learn how to be financially stable while pursuing their passion.
If you’re a family and consumer sciences teacher:
Since FACS got its start as home economics, it stands to reason that a finance lesson would be part of the syllabus. Arm your students with an arsenal of knowledge on practical topics like budgeting for a household, making super affordable meals from scratch, and buying an affordable home. Anything mortgage-related may seem light-years away to middle and high schoolers, but it’s never too soon to learn concepts that will impact huge choices they’ll make in the future. This is also a good time to discuss bargain shopping, which is something anyone can benefit from—homemaker or not. Our Foundations curriculum has a whole chapter dedicated to negotiating price and scoring the best deals!
If you’re a math teacher:
Finance is an easy and logical addition—no pun intended—to your syllabus! For example, since 66% of millennials have nothing saved for retirement, you can help your students get ahead of the game by teaching them about the wonders of compound interest (one of the easiest ways to grow your money).(2) Wouldn’t it be great if math class turned out to be a place where students conquer some of their fears about the future? You could also help them calculate their take-home pay with a hypothetical paycheck, or just show them how to create a personal zero-based budget. These life skills sometimes get overlooked, but you can be the one to bring them back to the classroom.
If you’re a business teacher:
Your business class is another easy way to tie personal finance into the classroom. A unit on the financial basics of running a small business is a natural fit, as is a discussion on the risks and rewards of investing. You can prepare your students for the real world by teaching them how to identify debt beneath all the layers of slick marketing or navigate buyer’s remorse. (We’ve all been there.) Chapter 6 (“Consumer Awareness”) in our Foundations curriculum will help students understand how peer pressure impacts their spending decisions, describe the effect of inflation on buying power, and understand how branding impacts a company’s success.
If you’re a social studies or history teacher:
Chapter 1 of our curriculum includes a comprehensive “History of Credit and Consumerism” timeline that would make a great conversation starter for a class focused on spending habits and their effect on history. The discussion possibilities are endless—and engaging! What can we learn from the patterns of spending and debt we’ve seen during a particular time period? Where did the concept of credit come from, and why did it become so popular? How have different societies handled money, and in what ways did they succeed or fail? How can we apply such broad knowledge to our own money habits today?
If you’re an English teacher:
Debt, poverty, saving and sacrifice could be part of your lesson plans this semester! Teaching literature opens the door to discuss life and the human experience, both of which often involve money. Novels like The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or Bleak House could spark quite a few discussions on the pros and cons of living an extravagant lifestyle or how people from varying social standings handle difficult financial situations.
If you’re a science teacher:
Highlight the fact that science-related skills can often cross over into the financial realm. Many tech companies are hiring data scientists—people who are well-versed in scientific methods, business, and math (and are extremely well-paid). And many people who graduate with physics degrees actually end up working in finance. You could also challenge your students to identify where most medical research funding is allotted, and then discover why such amounts are given to those particular areas. Students will see that funding is provided to the areas with the most need, so they’ll learn about finances on a grander scale while they also learn about its importance in science.
It's never too early for students to start planning for their future, and one of the best ways you can encourage them to do that is by helping them become financially literate—no matter what subject you teach. Need more in-depth resources and inspiration? Chapter 1 of our Foundations in Personal Finance: High School Edition curriculum is now available as a free download!
For more information about teaching financial literacy, visit us at ramseyeducation.com.