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Financial literacy activities for U.S. high school students

February 18, 2019

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with technical support from FHI 360, has added 50 new financial literacy activities to its youth financial education website. Designed for high school educators, these free classroom activities explain the basics of financial literacy, such as budgeting and building healthy financial habits for adulthood.

In a society where one in three Americans has no retirement savings and the average annual credit card debt is $6,354, providing young people with a solid foundation of financial knowledge is a necessity. If students can learn healthy financial habits today, they will be better prepared to tackle financial obstacles tomorrow.

“The new resources help make educators in and out of the classroom — teachers, scout leaders or community mentors — more confident in teaching financial literacy,” said Michelle Feist, Director of School and Community Services at FHI 360. “The activities are designed to engage youth and teach them how to be smart and effective financial planners now and in the future.”

Each activity includes a teacher guide and material to integrate financial literacy into existing curricula. More activities will be released throughout 2019, including some designed for middle and elementary school levels. To foster educational equity, the bureau includes activities specifically designed for English-language learners, students with special needs, and low-income, rural and urban students.

The activities are based on three interconnected building blocks that form the foundation of youth financial capability, which the bureau’s research has identified as critical to developing financial well-being in adults:

  • Executive function — the ability to plan ahead and solve basic and complex financial problems
  • Financial habits and norms — the values and rules to live by in daily financial activities
  • Financial knowledge and decision-making skills — familiarity with financial facts and concepts that allow one to make informed decisions

According to a study by the Council for Economic Education, only 17 states currently require high school students to pass a financial education course to graduate, and only 22 states require high schools to offer economics courses to students. Furthermore, research suggests that many educators feel both unprepared to teach the topic and overwhelmed by the amount of online content.

The bureau’s website aims to help educators understand best practices in financial education, evaluate financial education curricula and explore relevant research. In addition to activities, it includes:

  • An online tour that describes important steps to adult financial well-being and highlights the role of financial education
  • An easy-to-use search feature that incorporates grade level, duration and other filters
  • Assessments for educators to gauge student mastery of the building blocks and self-assessments for students to understand their financial knowledge, skills and habits
  • A curriculum review tool for educators to compare financial education curricula across key dimensions, so they can select the most promising ones for their classrooms

    Photo credit: Chadchai Ranqubpai/Getty Images