I wrote this post originally for BudgetTracker in November 2012.
The #1 rule of effective secondary education teaching is to make the learning real to the student. Use these four tips to find common ground with high school students and make the topic of personal finance really hit home:
Use technology to make personal finance interactive
Combining the social aspect of an online environment with the typically boring topic of money will help students find their own way to relate with the subject.
Use the professional videos on a website like SaveandInvest.Org to help students learn the basics, then use an online resource like BudgetTracker to create a customizable budget and share it with their classmates. Users can also access message boards for more budgeting tips and news stories related to personal finance!
Appeal to different learning styles
Personal finance is personal! While there are sensible rules to use when managing your money, it is also important to understand that students will each relate to money in a different way depending on their personal learning style.
While for some students walking through a hard-and-fast budget spreadsheet would be a good choice, other students may be more creative and need to use the BudgetTracker pie chart, or to illustrate finances in a visual journal. By providing 3-5 viable scenarios for students who might need other options, you can feel confident each student will see personal finance as a truly personal topic.
Give real-life examples based on your location
Nothing makes personal finance more real than looking at how you would spend your own money. Ask students to use an online payscale tool to research the average income of one or two jobs and make a real life budget. Include fixed expenses like state and federal taxes (if applicable), rent for your area, utilities, car payment, etc.
When considering other line items in the budget, be sure to calculate the original cost and final cost of purchasing items with an interest rate. Also calculate popular high school expenses, such as how much it costs to purchase a soda each day, to go to the movies each weekend, or to purchase new jeans, shirts, and coats.
Allow for alternative education choices
While you may have many students on a college-track, it is also important to acknowledge that some students will not need to go to college to be successful, or they have already made alternative plans. Be sure to address the needs of alternative-education students by discussing important financial priorities like retirement, saving for emergencies, and preparing for the finances of starting a family..