Reading, Writing and Personal Finance

In these recessionary times, more schools are teaching students how to manage money, making it easier for parents to have "the talk" with their kids

In these recessionary times, more schools are teaching students how to manage money, making it easier for parents to have “the talk” with their kids.

How I wish I had a chance to take personal finance in high school. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into credit card debt more than once (horrible, I know!) and perhaps would have started saving for my retirement before I turned 30.

Ilene Littman agrees. She teaches business education at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York, which is about an hour outside Manhattan. When she tells her students that she, a teacher with expertise in business, got into $10,000 worth of credit card debt at the age of 18, her students can’t believe it.

“They’re pretty shocked because they think I teach this, how could that have happened?” Littman told me during a recent interview. “And it happened because I didn’t learn what they’re learning today.” Her students learn how to make stock picks, review insurance plans and plan for retirement. Just listen to a few of them.


“I found out that I really am a low-risk investor… and maybe a CD would be something for me,” said Benjamin Conard, a junior.

“We did a little bit about saving money and… short-term investments and long-term investments and CDs and savings accounts, and all the different types of accounts at banks,” said Kelsey Penney, also in the 11-th grade.

“I’m learning every day – learning how to manage my money, learning terminology such as “discretionary income,” said Melissa Sparacio, a senior.

Impressive, check. Necessary, check again, because don’t we want our kids to get a better start than we had especially in an economy that continues to sputter along. According to a survey by the Council for Economic Education and funded by State Farm, 13 states now mandate some form of personal finance education in school – that’s up from 7 states just two years ago.

Bravo, I say. Along the way maybe these financially literate kids can help educate their moms and dads because as we learned in a recent iVillage survey, 41% of moms said they wished they knew more about managing money and financial responsibility so they could better educate their kids.

Maybe more moms and dads need to take Ms. Littman’s personal finance class.

Are you ready to have "the talk" with your kids?

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