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Money Smart Success Stories - Spring 2008

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Passing the Test: Success Stories and Tips for Teaching Kids About Money

When Lorraine Massey, an algebra teacher at Frayser High School in Memphis, Tennessee, uses the FDIC's Money Smart financial education curriculum in her life-skills education program for 9th and 10th graders, she's doing more than teaching about dollars and cents. She's also showing them how important money management can be to family relationships by pairing students together as "couples" and requiring them to make difficult decisions together on matters such as how to pay for a major, unanticipated expense.

"Learning how to resolve the many family financial situations that are bound to come up is a continuous process" that can make or break relationships, said Massey. For her teen students, this message is a real "eye opener" and an added incentive for them to develop good money management skills.

At McLane High School in Fresno, California, a partnership between the FDIC, local businesses and the Fresno school district resulted in a student-run branch of County Bank, which opened in September 2007. The FDIC's Money Smart curriculum is being used at the school, where minority students comprise 92 percent of the student body and more than 90 percent of the students come from below median-income families. The students who staff the bank branch part-time (in exchange for class credit and scholarships) also are getting involved in promoting financial education to their fellow students.

And in Massachusetts, Pamela Goodwin, an independent consultant who has taught personal finance classes to students ranging from second-graders to adults, said that by stressing the key concepts of "paying yourself first," "living beneath your means" and "comparison shopping" for financial services she has helped inspire people to save more money and open their first bank accounts. For example, Goodwin said one student cut back on fast food and other expenses and used the money to set up a new savings account and make $5 weekly deposits. Another student started direct-depositing her paychecks from a part-time job. "I'm seeing young people taking control of their money rather than money controlling them," she said.

The FDIC is pleased that schoolteachers, bankers and other financial educators around the country are using the Money Smart curriculum to help young people develop good habits early and to avoid making bad decisions (such as incurring a large amount of credit card debt) that could result in years of financial woes. And with the introduction of the new Money Smart for Young Adults, the FDIC is doing even more to help mold the money-management skills of middle and high school students. That's also why Money Smart News offers some tips about teaching kids about money management:

Vary your teaching methods to grab and hold the attention of students who learn in different ways. According to Patricia Greenwell, an FDIC instructional systems design specialist, there are three primary learning styles:

  • Youngsters who learn best by seeing how things are done. For these "visual learners," consider using visual aids, such as handouts and overhead slides.
  • Students who learn best by listening or hearing instructions. These "auditory learners" typically benefit from class lectures and exercises that allow them to share ideas, experiences and information with one another.
  • Those who learn by doing. They benefit from hands-on training and physically active exercises, and get bored with lectures.

According to Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC's Community Affairs Outreach Section, "Money Smart incorporates all three learning styles with overhead presentation for visual learners, instructor's script for auditory learners, and activities for those who learn by doing." He added that the new Money Smart for Young Adults includes optional computer-based exercises that will be especially helpful to visual and auditory learners. For example, teachers can have their students complete an interactive exercise on a computer to apply what they have just learned about topics such as spending money or shopping for a credit card.

Consider adding after-school activities if class time is limited. How can you entice students to stay after a long day at school to learn about money management? FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Joan Lok suggests providing -- and advertising -- "free soda, home-baked cookies and any other suitable treats that young people love and that parents may even be willing to donate." Lok also recommended "keeping the presentations to an hour or so -- it is tough to hold their attention after that."

Supplement classes with examples from the real world. "The key to working with young people is to make the lessons extremely relevant," said Massachusetts educator Goodwin. For example, FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Iris Valentin encourages educators to discuss print advertisements and TV commercials with their students as a way to reinforce key messages about being a smart consumer and understanding the difference between needs and wants. "Having students look at advertisements from a seller's and a consumer's point of view helps them think about the importance of spending wisely and getting the best buy for their money," she said.

Bring in guest speakers. Students often have short attention spans. One way to keep their students interested during financial education classes is to invite outside "experts," such as staff from local banks, to make presentations. "Bankers often are willing to guest-teach Money Smart classes, and they can give students a practical view of how to effectively use a bank and how to avoid problems such as identity theft," said Reynolds. Also, depending on the topic, consider bringing in professionals from outside of the financial services field. Goodwin invited an expert in personnel matters to explain how to search for and keep a job.

Remember that preteens can and should be taught basic lessons in saving and managing money. FDIC Community Affairs Specialist Phyllis Pratt said that when she has taught children between the ages of eight and 12 she has encouraged them to save money in piggy banks (until it can be put into a savings account) and to help their parents out by buying some of their own smaller school supplies, such as pencils, crayons and writing paper.

"Unbeknownst to them, even the youngest kids can understand and practice basic financial planning, and this will make it easier for them to grow into conscientious, skilled money-managers as young adults," Pratt said. "And by contributing even in a small way to their family's economic well-being -- just by seeing their money grow in a small piggy bank -- the self-esteem of these young children also will grow."

For more tips from the FDIC for teaching young people about money, see our "Guide to Presenting" that is part of the new Money Smart for Young Adults CD. Also read "Tales Out of School", our collection of success stories, anecdotes and other tips and information for educators of young people, published in the Winter 2005 issue of Money Smart News at

See more Money Smart success stories (Read more.)

Last Updated 04/10/2008

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