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High School Money

As people are looking for causes of the recent recession, I have heard it suggested (more than once) that high schools need to implement some kind of finance/money/economic course in their standard curriculum. It’s been argued that if people were equipped with sound financial principles in high school that the entire economy would be better off. If kids know that debt is generally a bad thing, they are less likely to make bad personal finance decisions later in life (like rack up a ton of CC debt or take out a 5 year ARM). Seems like a pretty good idea right?

While I agree the thought in nice, there is no way in HELLO that is going to work. Why? You can’t force high school kids to learn about things they have no interest in. I was a dork and enjoyed math and science, as a result I performed well in those subjects. I hated (and still hate) history and that was always my lowest grade. There was nothing anyone could do to make me want to learn about the civil war, period, end of story.

I could only imagine if my H.S. tried to force me to take an econ. or business class. Absolutely nothing about compound interest, saving for retirement, or taking on a mortgage appealed to me when I was 16 years old. Are you kidding? I was far too busy trying to figure out how I could get April Baldwin’s (super hot high school girl) phone number. Plus let’s be honest, it’s not like the majority of high school classes are really all that exciting, so a course about money would just be straight up miserable. Unless of course Mr. Ninja and Mr. J. Money were the teachers, but if that was the case there would probably not be too much “learning” going on in the first place 🙂

So what about you? Do you think you would have genuinely been interested in a personal finance class back in high school? On a side note: What subject did you absolutely despise back in the day? I think PF is something everyone should learn about, but they have to do it on their own will and desire. It’s like politics, I use to hate the stuff, but as I get older I am becoming more and more interested.

Class Dismissed suckers,



  1. Sorry, Ninja. I have to disagree with you on this one. It sounds like you're saying kids shouldn't be taught about the Civil War because they're not interested in it. Picking and choosing interesting topics is what college is for–not high school.

    Personally I could have done without math and science, but it was necessary for me to learn. Whether or not kids will pay attention shouldn't be the argument–is it a topic important enough to teach these young impressionist minds? I think so. I think that even if half of the students are zoned out and not paying attention, at least the information is settling on the other half of the class and that's certainly better than what we've got today.

    Plus I think kids view their parents as ATM machines and have no concept of the importance of working hard for what you get. I think shedding a little more light on the real world isn't a bad thing.

    Alright, I'm done with my soap box if anyone wants to borrow it. 😉

  2. what didn't I like? French! It was the bane of my existence.

    I was (and continue to be) a big nerd, and would have loved learning about the financial implications of compound interest.

    There must be a way to teach the basics (don't spend more then you have & save some of it) without putting kids to sleep…

    A lot of it also comes down to parents reinforcing the lessons learnt in school.. come on parents!!

  3. @ MPP – Ya know what… I think you are right. I was writing on a one track mind last night and didn't really think of things from your point of view. As much as I hated history it is probably somewhat valuable. I guess if I were to rewrite the post I would discuss the importance of making a personal finance class exciting so more students would actually want to listen. Thanks for the insight 🙂

  4. I'm a high school teacher, and I totally agree with you. It's not so much that kids aren't interested in PF, it's that there's no way to make it relevant. Think about it: talking about retirement, for example, to most 20-somethings is difficult because it's so far off. To a high school kid? Forget about it. I'm not saying that we shouldn't make an effort to educate kids about money, I'm just saying that I don't think it's the magic bullet that people think it will be.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, I think that the whole "make it interesting" idea is sort of stupid. By the time students are high-school aged, we need to be teaching them that not everything in life is fun, some things that are important might be boring, but we need to be mature and deal with them anyway. A lot of people neglect their finances because it's "boring" to budget and track spending. A lot of people don't live within their means because it's "no fun." We need to stop teaching kids that everything is supposed to be fun all the time – in fact, that might be a more valuable, if indirect, financial lesson than any lecture about Roth IRAs.

    BTW, I teach history. Even though I've read nothing but horrible things about your feelings about it, I still love your blog 🙂

  5. I think times have changed a bit. I mean, I'm only 7 out of highschool, but as far as I know, teenagers can get "credit cards" now – a prepaid card to shop online or something. Teachers even write simple "IOUs" for students who can't pay for trips, etc right away. That's a form of credit that can be totally abused and should totally be taught about in elementary school! Examples of credit and scams, etc should be taught.

    In my HS experience, the extent of it was compound interest and how to write a cheque. I enjoyed learning about PF math but it was so minimal. I'm really thankful to my parents for teaching me everything I know, but I feel for those kids who don't have parents like mine.

  6. I am also a high school teacher (science if you must know). In my school we're planning on teaching basics of PF in an advisory class. However, when did it become the job of public schools to solve all the worlds problems. My kid can't read – school will teach them. My kid is lazy – school will undo that. My kid has no drive – teachers should address that. He doesn't have money for college – teachers have to do a better job with that. How about the parents take on some responsibility for their children's future. If your allowing your child to use your credit card through college and charge everything and you then pay it off. I wouldn't call that financially responsible. I call that enabling.

  7. I would've LOVED a personal finance / money management class in high school – not just on budgeting and saving, but comprehensive personal finance including investing (asset allocation, risk vs. reward, etc.), insurance (life, disability, term), role-play with friends (you have a rich friend who likes to go out to dinner all the time – how do you maintain the friendship but still stay under budget? what do you say?).

    I can imagine it being a super fun class – because kids love talking about money. And one of the complaints that a lot of students have is "how does this help me in the Real World?" Well – money is where the rubber meets the road. Nothing more real than learning how to manage your own stuff after graduation.

    And judging by my blog crush post ( )… all the girls in class would be crushin' on you and J!

  8. My senior year in college I was actually really concerned about this. I realized that if I were to get a job I would have no idea what sort of things to invest in, what a 401(k) would be, how to handle student loan debt, none of these things.

    And as I was going around talking to other people around campus, I realized that I wasn't the only one with these fears.

    I personally would not have used a class like that in high school, but I DEFINITELY wanted one as I graduated college. Even if it was just an optional seminar to attend one or two evenings for a couple of hours. Something that explained what a bond was compared to a stock or a mutual fund. And how to handle debt and all of this would have been REALLY, REALLY useful. I thought so then and I still think so now.

    And to be perfectly honest, if I do end up teaching at my alma mater when I'm done (you can say you knew me when, Ninja), I'll probably propose to do something like that in the evenings at of the goodness of my heart because I know how much college seniors WANT something like this.

  9. We took economics in High School (was required in NY), but they didn't really teach us anything relevant like WTF is interest and how does it work or this is how to balance a budget and a checkbook. It was macro-economics, not personal finance.

    And calculus is the bane of my existence. I failed it every time I took it.

  10. I actually took a lame excuse of a PF class in high school! However, it was a very basic budgeting course, nothing fancy. And since it was done in the computer labs… with a flimsy, small, soft-cover textbook… it was (sadly!) a joke. It also did not make much sense because none of us were at that point in our lives where we really needed a budget, since we were all going off to college – mostly with the parentals footing the bills! (I went to a private high school.) However, I personally took some things out of it and kept somewhat of a budget while in college to track my spending.

    In college, I majored in Finance. And (lo-and-behold) my favorite class was my Personal Financial Management class that I took senior year. It is required as part of the major! This is what got me hooked on PF. I discovered Suze Orman, I discovered the world of PF blogs and then started my own right upon graduation when I found a job and had to get a handle on my finances!

    Sorry for the long comment – but I think this type of class should be required in college. In high school, barely anyone would care. As sad as it is, we're not quite as mature in HS as we think we are! 😉

  11. I would have LOVED a PF course in high school, but I was huge geek. Well, small in size, but huge in geekery.

    Thing is, from what I've seen, it's not a matter of making it "fun" – it's a matter of making it engaging. My high school teacher friend has been able to creatively teach Shakespeare and plotting etc. in such a way that previously zoned out mediocre students participated fully and even vociferously in his final projects.

    It took a few weeks of slogging, but his approaches to the material by relating it to current events, pop culture, and posting assignments that required creativity fully engaged their imaginations and enthusiasm. He had students who became so involved, in fact, they became perfectionists about their work. This is true of his "regular" ed classes as well as his special ed classes.

    I don't know where he gets his ideas, except that I know he's never going to grow up either so it's easy for him to stay current, but I do know that he didn't make the material itself seem fun, he just made the approach to it palatable to teenagers.

    He also taught an extra section on PF (I like to think it was a concession to me) by using a Monopoly like game, and the same students were entirely serious about the life decisions they had to make and explain why things did or didn't work out as planned.

  12. Eh? What kid doesn't like money? Everyone knows what money does but not many know how to manage it. A personal finance class is needed in our schools. The best class I took in HS was typing, good for commenting on blogs 🙂 The worst class was English literature, so subjective.

  13. I've gotta disagree with you too, Ninja. You didn't learn *anything* about history because you hated the class? You might've learned less than me, a major history geek, but you learned a whole heck of a lot more than you would have if you were left to your own devices and allowed to choose what you wanted to study. Just because a high school kid doesn't like PF doesn't mean it shouldn't be taught. I could see the argument for making it a pass/fail course, but it should absolutely be taught. There should also be a course required for college freshmen, in my opinion.

    To answer your questions….I would have been interested in a PF class in high school, and I think there are ways to make it interesting – mock businesses, mock stock market trading, etc. Bane of my existence in high school? Math. But despite the abysmal grades, I'm glad they made me suffer through it (now, anyway!)

  14. Hmmm interesting responses people. Seems like some agree that a PF class in high school would be worthless, but that maybe in college it should be a requirement. And others think that regardless of whether the kids would want it, it should be taught anyways.

    Both valid arguments. Thanks everyone for your contributions. I love getting some fresh insight.

  15. I agree with both sides.

    In theory, I think it's a good idea. I think personal finance classes might end up being like health classes, though, and get so watered down by politicians' input on the curriculum that only bored gym teachers would be willing to teach the class.

    I will say that I was forced to take economics in high school, and while I fully expected to hate the class, I had an awesome teacher who really got me interested in the subject. Yay Mr. G!

  16. I agree with MPP, I learned the value of money during highschool because my parents didnt spoon feed me anything and I had to get a job while going to school if I wanted to go to dances, buy a yearbook or buy new clothes. (I am not sour about this and really appreciate them teaching me the value of work). As a senior I petitioned the school to start teaching financial education but nothing ever happened. I had a few teachers on my side but once I graduated and moved away, I am sure they forgot all about my efforts.

  17. Mr. Ninja,

    I did take a class in PF in high school and loved it. There were approximately 8 people in the class and we all loved it (I went to a high school that graduated 75 a year.) The teacher made it very interesting and we were taught the basics of financial responsibility and budgeting. Then the second half of the course we were given businesses and had to make purchases each day and manage them successfully. Come to think of it, that was probably my favorite class in high school. To think I went on the become a technerd. Blech!

  18. I just graduated from high school and would have loved a personal finance class. Then I wouldn't have to read so many blogs to figure out what I'm doing with my money. I would have paid attention in that class for sure. I came from a really prestigious private school and a lot of my peers were trust fund babies. Teaching them about money, even involuntarily, should have been in the curriculum. It is a really big job that their parents are going to have to shoulder as soon as my peers gain control of their finances. Taking macroeconomics does not help with personal finance at all.

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