3 biggest money mistakes we’re making in school

I recently read an article about teaching kids about money that was rather interesting. The MoneyWatch article gave a few tips for helping kids learn money management. The article itself is severely lacking in being anything extraordinary. However, I found it inspiring that, as a teacher, we should be teaching money matters alongside academia. So I want convert this article into the 3 biggest money mistakes we’re making in our schools today.

Learning money management

First, Malito starts off her article by asserting, “Because children aren’t learning about money management in school…” This is a heavy statement that I would be cautious about putting in an article. When I was a kid, I was given a daily allowance and had to management money in order to buy the things I wanted at school, such as lunch and snacks. So kids are learning money management in school, but perhaps we should be harnessing this fact and help students learn better ways to manage their money. How about giving each student a “credit card” that can be used at school and then class teachers can give out the bills at the end of the week. What a great way to learn about credit cards!

When I was in Thailand, I used to give out “Science Schillings” – simple paper money that could be earned by answering questions and completing homework on time. Students could exchange their money for simple things, such as snacks and pencils. I also had larger items that required students to save their money all term for. Additionally, I ‘hired’ students to do classroom chores, such as taking out the trash and being leaders, and gave them their fair salary (in Science Schillings, of course). Their income was taxed and also depended on inflation that was determined by me. Students will someday face the natural concept of income and taxation, so why not introduce this in the classroom? It’s a great place to start where the stakes are low.

Learning about debt

Debt is something that is almost avoided in schools. Students need to be aware of the types of debt they will be getting themselves into, but more importantly, how to properly manage their debt. They should be made aware of how easily it is to fall into large amounts of credit card debt and how the American credit score system works. I know that I learned virtually nothing of this an am now paying a rather hefty price for my ignorance.

Now this doesn’t need to be taught explicitly in school (nor should it). Students can quickly package it away with their math and science lessons and forget it. It needs to be taught in a practical manner. How about instead of selling textbooks to students, we require them to take out a ‘mortgage’ that they gradually repay month by month. This certainly would help them feel the weight of their debt.

Student-led economics

The last thing I want to suggest is allowing students to run and manage on-campus businesses. Have a store? Why not let the students learn to manage the business to get some practical application of their business lessons. Have sporting events? How about having students plan the marketing and selling of tickets. This certainly would give them a good lessons in marketing and advertising. How about the school website – is it managed by students? The point here is that there are many things we have in our schools already that can easily be used to further the education of our students.

Schools can be thought of as a sort of  ‘sim city’ where students can learn the concepts of the world in a low-risk situation. Education isn’t just about teachers and textbooks, but rather about preparing students for the world that they will face after graduation. We are doing our students a grave injustice not to be teaching them this stuff, and it’s time that we, as teachers, put our heads together and start thinking about how we can turn our school environment into a multi-faceted environment for learning and trial-and-error.

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