In schools, the main problem with personal finance education is the lack of classes, not that kids already know the information or that the skills are too complex for children to understand. Nancy Donovan teaches personal finance to her fifth-grade math class as a way to illustrate how math can be used in the real world. “Students choose a career, find jobs, and figure out what their taxes and take-home paycheques will be. They also have to rent apartments and figure out a monthly budget,” says Donovan. “Students like it, and parents have commented to me how surprised they are by how much financial knowledge their kids can handle.” Donovan also has her students invest $10,000 (play money) and then track their investments’ performance. Urging schools to teach the basics of personal finance is just common sense. Children need to be taught how to manage a household budget, the importance of saving money for future goals, and the consequences of overspending. Unfortunately, few schools offer classes like Donovan’s. In most cases, the financial basics aren’t taught at all. In the minority of schools that do offer a course remotely related to personal finance, the class is typically in economics (and an elective at that). “Archaic theory is being taught, and it doesn’t do anything for the students as far as preparing them for the real world,” says one high school principal. Having taken more than our fair share of economics courses in university, we understand the principal’s concerns. Some people argue that teaching children financial basics is their parents’ job. However, this well-meant sentiment is what we’re relying on now, and for all too many, it isn’t working. In some families, financial illiteracy is passed on from generation to generation. Education takes place in the home, on the streets, and in the schools. Therefore, schools must bear some responsibility for teaching this skill. However, if you’re raising children, remember that no one cares as much as you do or has as much ability to teach the important life skill of personal money management.

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