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Teaching the Mechanics of Personal Finance

Feature Story
Posted on Aug, 15 2011

Photo of Jesse Jurgenson

Educating educators on teaching personal finances to high school students is the main objective for Jesse Jurgenson’s practicum experience.  Jurgenson has always been interested in financial literacy, which prompted his decision to go back to school for his master’s in Family Financial Planning. Offered through Distance and Continuing Education at North Dakota State University (NDSU), the online master’s in Family Financial Planning allows students the opportunity to engage in finding solutions to ever-changing real-world problems.  Jurgenson, who is currently completing his practicum, is working with Deb Pankow, Family Economics Specialist and Lori Scharmer, Extension Agent with the NDSU Extension Service to get information out to schools regarding financial literacy curriculum and resources for teachers throughout North Dakota.

As of July 1, 2010, North Dakota legislation (HB1400) requires each school district to incorporate concepts of personal finance into its curriculum.  The following concepts of personal finance are currently being incorporated into high school curriculum in North Dakota: checkbook mechanics, writing checks, balancing a checkbook, and statement reconciliation; saving for larger purchases; credit, including credit card usage, interest, and fees; earning power including jobs for teenagers; taxation; college costs; making and living within a budget; and mortgages, retirement savings, and investments.  

Through his research Jurgenson found less than 20 percent of teachers felt “very competent” to teach in the content areas of income and careers and in planning and money management, according to a study conducted by University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Furthermore, he found that many parents do not feel comfortable in teaching their children about personal finances.  Despite the discomfort teaching about finances, Jurgenson reminds us “One of the most important things to remember is that you do not need to be a financial planner to teach youth about finances.  Think about your family budget and how complex it is.  While it wasn’t something you learned overnight, it is now a concept that is familiar to you.”

Jurgenson offers the following tips for teachers and parents about teaching financial literacy to children.

  1. Use teachable moments. – Teaching a student about retirement planning if they haven’t graduated high school will almost guarantee they will stop listening.  Instead talk to them about something that impacts their lives.  For example, discuss vehicle insurance if they are at the age of driving.  Or discuss how to fund college if they are currently choosing colleges to attend.
  2. Build on concepts. – Use the life stages of children to introduce basic age appropriate financial concepts and build on those concepts over time.
  3. Use available resources. - The NDSU Extension Service is an excellent resource for teachers to find materials and curriculum that are free of charge.  Find an expert in your community to be a guest in your classroom.  Look for classes related to financial literacy through NDSU Distance and Continuing Education.

To find more information on Financial Literacy Resources through the NDSU Extension Service go to http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ndsuag/family.  If you or someone you know would like more information about a degree or certificate in Family Financial Planning go to: http://www.ndsu.edu/dce/degrees/graduate/mshdfs_famfinplanning.