Teaching Personal Finance in High School

Getting Started Teaching Personal Finance

Educating students on the importance of money is an important part of their overall education, and many educators are beginning to offer financial literacy instruction, from embedding finance standards in math or social studies and economics to adding stand-alone personal finance courses to graduation requirements.

How do we make these extremely essential, but at times tedious, topics stick in the minds of children? After 13 years of surveying students’ financial aspirations and interests, I’ve discovered that students’ financial aspirations and interests consistently fall into three categories:

They are self-sufficient.
Credit and credit cards are two different things.
In this article, you will find a beginner’s guide to incorporating practical experiences and real-world possibilities into your personal finance education programme.


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Living on their own is a homework assignment that requires students to compare rental options through advertisements and then physically visit an apartment complex (apartment complexes are important because of the on-site sales staff) to tour it and figure out the actual cost of moving in, including deposits. To see an apartment, students must be 18 years old or be accompanied by someone who is 18 years old. My students are frequently accompanied by their parents or guardians, as well as older siblings.

As an additional step, I have the students contact the local energy company to obtain a proposed monthly cost and also inquire with their insurance agent about the cost of renter’s insurance. Professionals in these fields are always willing to lend a helping hand to students.

Moving out: I give students a moving-out questionnaire to complete with their families before they leave campus. Among the inquiries are those pertaining to the variables that will indicate that everyone is ready for the youngster to move out. The form inquires about financial and emotional support after moving out, as well as whether or not that support (monetary or emotional) is reliant on anything, such as roommates, grades, children, and so on. Also, would the student ever be able to return to the residence, and if so, under what conditions? Parents appreciate this task because it provides them with an opportunity to have these difficult, but extremely essential, conversations with their children.

Budgeting: If the students don’t know how to budget, they’ll be forced to move back in with their relatives in the not too distant future. Preparing family meals that fulfil nutritional criteria while still remaining within a certain budget is an important part of learning how to budget effectively. Students learn budgeting with beans (I use Smarties) on a set of playing cards that indicate spending options and expenses. We play The Bean Game, a hands-on game in which students practise budgeting with beans (I use Smarties) on a set of playing cards that outline spending options and costs. This activity was originally provided by our local extension office, but Next Gen Personal Finance also has a version of it available for download. In order to continue teaching online during quarantine, I used Next Gen’s version. They have all of the playing cards placed into a spreadsheet so that they may play them digitally. Another excellent hands-on exercise for budgeting is to participate in Junior Achievement Finance Park, a budgeting simulation that may be used for personal financial planning as well as job research.

For middle school and high school students, Junior Achievement has just introduced a new curriculum. Teenagers, young adults, working adults, and those reaching retirement were among the life periods covered by my high school students’ budgets. They did so while making important life decisions such as getting married, having children, and adopting pets. The final assignment of the lesson requires students to investigate and construct a comprehensive budget for the time they will be on their own. They’re usually taken aback by the high cost of living on their own and find that their ambition of becoming self-sufficient is a little further away than they first expected.

I add lessons on how to save into the budgeting tasks after emphasising the significance of doing so. I designed the Bean Game to include scenarios such as layoffs, injuries, and broken pipes; if the students have saved enough beans, they will be fine; if not, they may have to relocate to their family’s basement, like I did. I prefer to have kids play this game in pairs since it emphasises the need of communicating about money with one’s partner in a positive way. Furthermore, students are required to set aside money for savings during their time at the JA Finance Park, as well as for a moving-out budget at the conclusion of the course.


Credit is a source of concern for many children, and with good reason. I emphasise the significance of remaining within their financial limits. We learn about credit scores through the use of a Jenga game, which demonstrates how credit scores are affected. As players progress through the game, they will encounter events that will either enhance or reduce their credit score. Students keep note of the ups and downs in their credit scores as a result of the events that they attend.

After that, we participate in a four-corner exercise using genuine credit card offers. I ask them to compare both and then state which one they would prefer and why they would choose it. When we talk about how each might work in different situations, we emphasise that if they don’t feel confident in their ability to handle credit responsibly just yet, they shouldn’t attempt.


Believe it or not, I’ve had students tell me that they’ve been looking forward to learning about taxes their whole school careers. Taxes can be a frightening prospect. I’ll begin by providing a general review of the taxes we have in the United States, as well as an explanation of where the money collected from them is spent. Most students are unaware that there are five major tax routes (income, payroll, sales, excise, and property) that are used by the federal, state, and local governments, and they are also unaware of all the things they take for granted in their everyday lives that are made possible by tax revenues.

After we have a good grasp of the what and why, we turn our attention to the how. The Internal Revenue Service provides some excellent simulations to assist students in learning about taxes. They will guide students through the process of completing a W4 and a 1040.

The fact that they don’t have to be capable of doing everything is something that I want to tell my kids. It is for this reason that we have tax specialists, real estate brokers, financial advisers, and other professionals. If my pupils are able to understand their own talents and shortcomings, as well as seek out appropriate resources, I have accomplished my goal.