savings

A free economy doesn't come free

In light of today's economy, you have to wonder: Are we paying the price for generations of not teaching practical and applicable financial subject matter in school?

Brian Page, a personal finance teacher in Reading County, Ohio, isn't waiting for legislators to give him the green light to give his students a financial education. He has implemented a financial education course for the schools in his area, and we've asked him for insight into this important issue.

QuestionCan financial education help kids develop into competent money managers?

AnswerA financial education provided by a teacher who is passionate and knowledgeable will help kids develop into competent money managers. Unfortunately, it is an unfunded mandate in some states, which means that some teachers are forced to teach personal finance without any content knowledge themselves. So in the end, it depends on the dedication of the educator and whether there are enough dollars to support the legislated mandate to prepare educators to teach the course.

In a model financial education course, students are challenged to envision how they want to live their lives, establish goals that will put them on a path to get there, and gain access to money management tools they need to monitor their progress. The curriculum and assessments are rigorous enough to assess how well they can apply what they have learned in future challenges with real money at stake, and the environment is engaging and innovative enough to draw interest in the content.

QuestionDo parents support financial education for their children?

AnswerIn a recent Visa Inc. survey, 85 percent of parents said they want a course in personal finance to be a high school graduation requirement. This statistic is pretty consistent with my experiences with our community. If anything, our community is even more supportive than the national average.

QuestionAre today's teachers equipped to teach financial education? How should we ensure they're certified in this area?

AnswerIn most states, the teachers who are prepared to teach personal finance are certified because of their own passion to learn, and sometimes (use) their own money to take the necessary coursework. To ensure that teachers are certified in this area, ultimately they need to pass an assessment in the content area prior to teaching the course.

QuestionHow do you measure the outcome of a personal finance course?

AnswerFor my course, the University of Cincinnati Economics Center for Education & Research pre-assessed and post-assessed my classes and proctored the exam. I was thrilled with the results, but the ultimate test is whether the course will be able to mold behavior outside of the classroom.

QuestionWhat role should the government play in funding a financial education for children? Should this happen at the federal or state level?

AnswerJust as I believe education is the cornerstone of democracy, I believe that a financial education is the foundation for a free economy.

I would like to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, make a dedicated effort to bringing tools and resources into classrooms across the country. Incoming director Richard Cordray was primarily responsible for bringing the first wave of financial education into Ohio classrooms, and I hope the political environment and legislators allow him to be just as dedicated to doing the same at the national level.

At the state level, standards and curriculum should be written for educators to follow, and certification for teachers as well as pre- and post-assessments of students should be required. Students would have to pass a personal finance course consistent with this curriculum and an exit exam.

QuestionHow can kids start building a bright financial future for themselves as kids?

AnswerKids need to take ownership of their own saving and spending habits. There are financial tools such as MoneyTrail.net that allow kids to track budgets electronically, making it easier to transition into programs like Mint. Equally as important (is) taking advantage of financial products that are available to them, such as 'kiddie IRAs,' checking accounts and savings accounts.

Brian Page is Ohio's distinct recipient of the 2011 Milken National Educator Award. He co-created the 'Awesome Island Game,' an award-winning financial education game. He currently teaches personal finance in the Reading Community City School District in Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @FinEdChat.

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