Why High Schools Must Start Teaching the Value of Money


As access to information grows, there are few things that grab the attention of young people more than money. Or I should say, the perception of having money. As teachers and administrators we must, more than ever, assist in drawing the distinction between looking rich and being rich. Especially since we are finally seeing progress in personal finance requirements as stated in the Survey of the States which is a report released every two years by Council for Economic Education. Requirements are not enough.


Even though we are finally seeing growth in this niche of education, teaching them about things they will need as they get older may still not provide the impact necessary to make real change in the financial habits of our younger generations. We must affect their habits as soon as possible, not just just provide them information then pat ourselves on the back.


A kid goes to the store and buys a drink with their friends. They could wait 30 minutes and be home and not spend any money. They could even be waiting at a store to be picked up and be home in 15 minutes or less. Instead of waiting, they walk through the store and see a beverage they like. Without recognizing all the marketing that goes into creating the desire to buy, they make a purchase. Maybe their parent even says “why didn’t you wait til you got home?” I’ll let all the adults out there imagine their response to that question. In their mind “it’s only 2 dollars.” Maybe they go to get a Starbucks with their friends sometimes weekly. It’s these small micro-spending habits we must attack. More specifically getting them to consciously think about is this a need or want? To a kid with a group of friends all trying to fit in this can be difficult. When achieved it’s an exponentially positive impact.


When we are able to draw a distinct line between these kinds of purchases and their ability to live and succeed later in life, we are then able to affect larger purchase.


So how do we do that? How do we teach them something so valuable that it overcomes every teenagers greatest challenge… peer pressure?


We have to draw a correlation between what they care about right now and the process to attaining that and the process of spending money and show them it’s the same. They could want to be an athlete or a singer. They could want to be a scientist or an english major. If we can show them that, although those things seem completely unrelated, they are actually exactly the same. Specifically, the process is the same. The sacrifices, the delayed gratification, the ability to say no to the group in a way that isn’t ostracizing to their friends so that they can achieve something. To connect those dots and to create a realization of the process to succeed gives all the new personal finance requirements substance.


If we are not able to teach the value of money alone with the technical terms and formulas for things like compound interest and return on investment then we will water down the impact of those changes and minimize the advocates who fought so hard to make them. More importantly we will be patting ourselves on the back for starting to help and then completely ignoring the endgame.

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