The old argument about taking algebra in high school if you'll
never need it later brings up an interesting point - exactly what
is important, and how do you decide?
First, algebra is important, even if you don't plan to go to
college. The logic required to succeed with algebra helps in all
facets of life.
But what about the things every adult will use every day?
The most common could arguably be money. And if money is part of
every adult's life, it only makes sense to start teaching personal
finance as soon as possible.
Here are three reasons why personal finance should be taught at the
high school level:
Money Management Is a Learned Skill
Knowledge is power. No one is born understanding how to manage
money, and not every parent has a strong financial foundation for
kids to learn from at home.
Financial planning at the high school level can empower students
with skills that their lives at home can't.
There are differing views on whether financial planning taught in
high school has any lasting effect on money management as children
grow into adults.
argues that while financial planning at the high school level seems
like a good idea, additional math classes in high school do more to
But one doesn't need to exclude the other. Financial planning with
additional math in high school gives students more skills to
understand not just how numbers work, but how they apply to
The Sooner Education Starts, the Better
Once habits are formed, they're hard to break.
Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public
has taken action at the high school level in the Greater
In a yearly series of money management programs, PICPA volunteers
work with students to help them understand basic financial
concepts, such as "pay yourself first," and the fundamentals of
making a personal budget.
If the value of such a program seems uncertain, the reaction of
students to learning about taxes should clear the waters. Most of
them were shocked to see just how much taxes reduce their take-home
That can be a hard lesson learned later in life, or an empowering
one to students who are just starting out.
Awareness of the Bigger Concepts That Most Adults Will
Math skills allow anyone to calculate interest, deduct pay
withholdings, and understand whether there's enough money in the
bank to afford a purchase or pay a bill.
However, there are many financial concepts that are entirely
foreign, even to some adults.
Some programs, such as
Money as You Learn
, are designed to teach students about concepts such as compound
interest, investment risk evaluation, debt management, goal
setting, and determining the difference between needs and wants.
Think about a first-time home or vehicle loan.
A student who has learned about amortization will have a better
understanding of the total cost when taking on a large purchase,
and that helps hem make better choices when faced with those
decisions later in life.
Financial planning at the high school level can't turn all students
into money-management dynamos, but it certainly can't hurt.
Combined with more math classes, students have the ability to
understand their pay after graduation, and even the weight of
student loan debt if they go on to college.
Education is rarely a bad thing, and adult life revolves around
With financial planning taught at the high school level, students
have the opportunity to enter adulthood armed with a better
understanding of how money works, and how to make it work for them.
Editor's Note: This article by Mary Hiers was originally
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