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Tackling the Taboo: Teaching Finance in Schools

Rewind to the year 1994. I had just turned 9 years old, so I figured it was time to get my life together. The first step was to buy a house — since everyone seemed to need one. I estimated the cost at about $100,000 for a nice three-bedroom in the suburbs. I emptied my piggy bank and began counting.

Fast forward ten years and my financial smarts hadn’t improved much. Besides balancing a checkbook and practicing with mock stocks in high school, my financial know-how was pretty limited.

Adults were so tight-lipped about money that I assumed the subject of finances was an inappropriate one to bring up with anyone. Turns out, most people felt the same way — but why? Money is something we all have to deal with yet most of us don’t feel comfortable talking about it. Maybe that’s because no one knows how or when to start the conversation.

A Taboo Topic

The earlier we interact with the idea of finances and money — the better. But many young students today have little to no financial education. Now, teaching kindergartners the complexities of tax law might be a little too much. But if our schools start the conversation with high-level and positive experiences, students will realize that it’s okay to talk about money.

Showing students that money is a manageable part of life rather than a representation of their value as a human being is crucial. Students need to realize that it’s ok to talk about money. Lastly, financial literacy curriculum should stay high level — it’s an intimidating subject and many students will remain overwhelmed by it. Their first educational experience with money shouldn’t feel excluding; it should be inviting and positive.

The Basics

How much we make is often synonymous with our identity. But that simply isn’t true. It’s important to communicate to students that income is just a number and doesn’t define the value of a human being. Income should be seen as a tool to be harnessed in order to fund the things that matter most. Emphasizing income as a vehicle to achieve goals and stay true to values can show kids that life is more than just gathering assets and complying to social pressures. This lesson can help build a much healthier and more optimistic perspective on money for years to come.

Healthy Conversations

Giving students the silent treatment with money causes them to believe that it’s secretive but important — a good recipe for anxiety. It’s important for people of all ages to know that it’s okay to talk about money and how to open up about their questions and concerns. Integrated into a class like Home-Economics, students could learn how money plays a role at home and how to have healthy conversations around finance.

A Positive Experience

At In Good Company, we believe in making financial education more accessible by focusing on what interests everyone — creating a healthy financial future. In public schools, this could involve teaching a holistic money mindset roadmap that emphasizes financial wellness and encourages inquiry. Similar to our workshops, classes could adopt collaborative, hands-on activities that inspire curiosity and promote goal-planning. Whatever the particulars, we must deliberately demonstrate to students how to move forward in their financial future with confidence.