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Teens reap rewards from free financial course

by Mary Ann Campbell
Teens reap rewards from free financial course

Financial literacy is a learned skill. None of us are born with an electronic stock ticker running around our crib. Even Donald Trump’s children don’t innately understand how to manage personal finances.

Every April, we celebrate Financial Literacy month. This year, I’d like to share my experience with an effective, free program that has played a big part in my life. In both public and private high schools in Arkansas, I’ve volunteered to present the High School Financial Planning Program (HSFPP), and it has been an extremely rewarding experience.

Originally designed by the independent, non-profit National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) for high schools, the HSFPP has since been adapted for use by home-schooled students, inmates in correctional facilities, military personnel, members of religious groups and many others. In fact, more than 7.5 million student guides have been distributed since 1984, and 7,200 organizations use NEFE programs annually.

West Point cadet applies HSFPP

As an HSFPP educator, my biggest reward to date is the letter I received from Paul, a former participant at Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, where I had shared the program when he was a senior. The letter was written for the current attendees.

Paul told the students how the program taught him to start saving early. When he arrived at West Point as a cadet, he committed to saving some of his stipend beginning with the first semester. Now that Paul was graduating, he had quite a stash. It was by no means easy, but he was glad he’d done it. Paul encouraged all current attendees to pay attention to the program. Everything they took away would ultimately be for their own good, he wrote.

Money management curriculum

Seven units, including one focused on credit card debt, make up the NEFE HSFPP program:

  1. Your Financial Plan: Where It All Begins
  2. Budgeting: Making the Most of Your Money
  3. Investing: Making Money Work for Your
  4. Good Debt, Bad Debt: Using Credit Wisely
  5. Your Money: Keeping It Safe and Secure
  6. Insurance: Protecting What You Have
  7. Your Career: Doing What Matters Most

“Research shows that participants really are applying what they learn, (and) it does affect their behaviors in a positive way,” says Susan Sharkey, Director of the NEFE HSFPP. “We find that participants are using budgets, setting aside savings, and using decision-making processes when they buy.”

Here’s an actual response written by a NEFE student in an evaluation: “I didn’t realize how many expenses I was going to end up having…Now I know to put money aside for the future…If an emergency does come up, (I’ll) have money to pay for stuff rather than freaking out and not being able to pay for anything.”

Understanding the cost of credit, including credit card debt, is one particularly effective outcome of the NEFE HSFPP program, researchers find.

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