Learn personal finance skills while still in high school

While 99 percent of parents agree that money management skills should be taught in high school, only four states require a stand-alone course and just thirteen require the topic be covered as part of another high school class.

Does your local high school offer a personal finance class? A 2013 poll sponsored by Bank of America showed that 99 percent of parents agree that money management skills should be taught in high school. Yet, according to the Jump$tart Coalition, currently only four states -- Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia - require that high school students take a stand-alone personal finance course to graduate. In addition, just thirteen states require personal finance instruction as part of another high school class. What’s a teen to do?

Discussing with the school administration the possibility of adding a personal finance class to the curriculum would be a good first step. Michigan State University Extension recommends involving other students and offering to make a presentation to the school board. However, the reality is that even if everyone agrees to include such a course in the curriculum, the likelihood that the class will be offered before you graduate is slim. MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development offers several educational resources that will teach you the personal finance concepts that can put you on a financially healthy track into adulthood.

Since teens prefer to do things with their friends, consider starting a personal finance 4-H club. “The 4-H Millionaires club” may attract like-minded financially savvy friends and can be an extracurricular activity at your school or based in your community. Contact your local MSU Extension office to discuss creating such a group. Weekly meetings over the course of two months will provide you and your friends with the basic knowledge and skills to make wise consumer decisions. Add 3 to 4 additional meetings for those who want to learn the fundamentals of investing.

There are numerous resources available to help you learn invaluable money concepts. National 4-H offers Financial Champions, a series of three publications in money fundamentals including wants and needs, saving, spending, budgeting and the services offered by financial institutions. Consumer Savvy helps teens build the skills to make wise shopping decisions and to understand their rights as consumers. Reasonably priced, both resources are available from the online 4-H Mall.

The USDA/Cooperative Extension system have been a partner in the creation of the highly regarded High School Financial Planning Program developed by the National Endowment for Financial Education. The six stand-alone student guides are available free to educators and volunteers working with young people. The guides are supplemented by a wealth of online resources. The materials are updated every five years; the most recent revision was completed in 2013. This curriculum could be utilized in your “4-H Millionaires club” or in an after-school 4-H program with an adult facilitator to help guide your learning.

Check out the “4-H Build a Million” interactive website where you can learn about stocks, bonds and mutual funds and weigh your comfort level with investing risk. The Michigan 4-H Youth Development money management website provides additional resources for you and your friends to work together to learn personal finance skills.

Learning early in life to budget, save and spend sensibly will significantly impact your financial future. Taking the steps to acquire those key skills while still in high school is a wise investment.

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