By Megan Ladwig
*Opinions expressed in this article are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.
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According to the influential financial advisor, Mr. Dave Ramsey, “80% of Americans are caught up in the chains of debt.” Debt collectors and credit agencies don’t care about your socioeconomic status, your struggles and triumphs, or how much progress you’ve made through the years. They make money off of good people who don’t understand the financial game of life.
I was raised by two educated parents and I had a good childhood. My family had financial highs and lows but I never went without; However, even a privileged child, such as myself, did not learn the ins and outs of how to build credit, avoid high-interest rates, file taxes, live on a budget, and tools to manage my finances until well into my 20s.
Many of my peers did not have the same luxuries of a healthy home life with caring parents, so they had even higher odds stacked against them from the beginning. They were left to teach themselves how to make financial decisions through the hard knocks of life and the outcome was financial stress and turmoil at a young age.
To this end, society should be intentional about educating the youth of America on how to find financial peace and grow wealth. Secondary education should include Personal Finance in the curriculum at the middle school and high school levels. Teaching financial management skills early and often equips students with tools needed to save themselves from financial hardships as they become independent adults. Further, exposing youth to these very real topics helps build self-confidence and improve mental health during the critical transition from adolescents to young adulthood.
As a middle school Personal Finance facilitator, I teach 7th and 8th graders about topics ranging from saving, budgeting, investing, to filing taxes, writing checks, and reading a pay stub. Before my students even enter the workforce they are exposed to what their paychecks will look like and what deductions to expect. They will understand why their money is being put towards Medicare and how that system runs.
Before my students move into their own place they will know how to create a budget and how to live below their means in order to save and invest. My students leave my course having analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of new cars versus used cars and renting a house versus owning a house. We research colleges and trade schools as well as military options. This course is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a way for students to be exposed to various options early. This allows students time to consider what financial decisions are best suited for their lifestyle without being bombarded by these new concepts all at once.
The 2020-2021 academic year has been filled with obstacles in the classroom, and in every other facet of life for teachers, parents, and students. Some children have not been able to return to campus and those who have are not able to see each other’s faces because they are hidden beneath masks. Students aren’t able to work in groups or sit together at lunch.
Teachers are providing hope for better days to come, but the lack of human interaction has taken a toll on student’s moods, work ethic, and passion for learning. Mix these challenges with the stresses many families are facing due to the health crisis and recession and the results are unfathomable; To say that the mental health of our students has declined would be a drastic understatement.
In addition to the curriculum, student’s mental health is something teachers are giving ample attention to daily. If we want to raise confident, thriving young adults we must provide them with the tools needed to be successful. Much like I wouldn’t give my students an assignment without instructions and supplies, I also wouldn’t expect my students to head out into this world with little-to-no knowledge of how to handle their personal finances and expect them to flourish. Students who are exposed to financial concepts at a young age will not only be more money savvy, but they will feel more equipped and mentally stable as they approach high school graduation.
This year my course is an optional elective, but I would like for administrators to recognize the value of this content and consider making Personal Finance a mandatory part of the 8th grade curriculum for the 2021-2022 academic school year and beyond.
About The Author
Megan is a 32-year-old wife, dog mom, and educator. She is a former geriatric social worker who has transitioned into the world of education. She teaches middle school 7th and 8th-grade Personal Finance, 6th and 7th grade English Language Arts, and is a special education case manager. She is passionate about making a difference in the classroom and in her community. Her goal is to equip young adults with the skills to manage their finances and build wealth while having fun along the way.