Valley Parents Correspondent
Published: 2/25/2020 12:46:04 PM
Like many complex parenting topics, there’s some debate over who should teach financial literacy. In Vermont, only about 10% of schools have a graduation requirement related to financial literacy. In New Hampshire, 12% of high schools require a stand-alone course in personal finance before graduation, but none of them are in the Upper Valley.
Daniel Hebert, president of the New Hampshire Jump$tart Coalition, which advocates for more financial education, said that more schools are teaching personal finances. In 2013, only three high schools in the state required a personal finance course, but today 10 high schools do.
“When it comes to financial literacy and personal finance education, that drumbeat is getting louder and louder,” he said.
Many more high schools (including most in the Upper Valley) offer elective courses in personal finance, but these courses often take a back-seat to more demanding classes or fail to capture students’ interest, Hebert said.
“In talking to high school students, they have a real interest in learning to talk about their money, and yet don’t want to take the course,” he said.
At Hanover High School, personal finance has been offered for more than 20 years. It’s offered for one semester during the spring of senior year and covers topics ranging from wages to investing and even how to write a check, according to Jeanine King, head of the math department at the school.
Other teachers, like Beth Ziegler, a middle school math teacher at Hartland Elementary, work to incorporate financial topics into the math standards that are part of the state curriculum. When her seventh-grade students learn about rational numbers (any whole number, including negative numbers) they talk about how this can be applied to bank accounts. When they learn about percentages, Ziegler incorporates a lesson on compounding interest.
“I believe students learn best when their learning is connected to real-world scenarios, and this is a perfect opportunity to do just that,” she said.
Richard Reece, chairman of SCORE Mentors Upper Valley, a nonprofit organization that assists business owners, said that parents should encourage children to take personal finance and economics classes when they are offered.
“It’s probably the most important course you can take in high school,” he said. “Some of those concepts you need all through life, especially budgeting.”
Last year, Harvard University began offering a personal finance class, something Yale students already have access to. Timothy Fisher, owner of Fisher Financial Advisors, hopes that these changes at prestigious institutions will show that everyone needs personal finance education in school.
“If the two most premier colleges in the country feel it’s important to offer financial literacy, maybe there will be a trickle-down effect,” he said.