design: Brooke Farren
From academics to social life, high school is the center of teenagers’ lives. Whether they enjoy going to class or absolutely dread it, high school is an important step for teens and their transition from kids to adults. Many things are taught in high school to help prepare students for college and/or careers post-graduation, but there is one subject that many feel they still lack in: finance.
Spending versus saving money, purchasing a home and car, paying taxes and bills: these are all things that the majority of adults do, yet high-schoolers are often neglected of being taught these important aspects of life prior to graduating high school. However, Dr. Stephen Lewis teaches the perfect class for grasping this type of curriculum, appropriately named “Personal Finance”.
“Individuals will often have millions of dollars passed through their hands in a lifetime,” said Lewis. “But then we don’t do anything with it to prepare for the future; everything is about today”.
Throughout the semester-long class, students will first learn about the general decision-making process in regards to spending money, followed by more information on how to understand money. This all leads to the more applicable curriculum to real life scenarios, such as how taxes are paid, how to manage a budget and much more.
“I think the class helps students to actually look into the future and understand how they can prepare themselves for building their wealth,” said Lewis, “which is perhaps the most important thing coming out of Personal Finance.”
Another way to truly experience how the world outside of the classroom functions and operates is to get a job. High school students with part-time jobs will get early insight on how to handle income compared to others, leaving them a little more confident upon graduating.
“Not only is it your paycheck that you get to see, but you also get to see the workings of business itself,” said Lewis. Students can learn over longer periods of time on the job how to receive promotions, how to handle extra money, how to create a budget, and more.
For many adults today, this was indeed the primary method of how they learned such information. Most, such as principal Trond Smith, didn’t even have a class like Personal Finance to take in high school, so much of the knowledge that led to his success came from first-hand experience.
“I learned a few of these skills from my parents, but honestly, it was just a lot of ‘on the job training’ and learning from personal experiences,” said Smith. If he had the opportunity to take a class like Personal Finance though, he definitely would’ve, he said.
In addition, while it may seem and is often difficult to learn how to manage your finances in life, the opportunities to learn these things as a teenager or young adult are there. In fact, opportunities and resources are only increasing as time goes on, and it is usually up to the students or individuals themselves to make connections and identify patterns.
With more opportunities, more people should and are gaining new experiences and learning new things that they can apply to their lives immediately, said Lewis. In his Personal Finance class, Lewis hopes that students will make connections to real life situations and be able to apply the curriculum now, unlike many other classes where students often question the connection between the material and their future, he said.
Finance is a very complicated subject that most adults never completely master; however, it is equally as important to understand as best as you can. Classes like Personal Finance will help students be prepared more than others for the “real world” beyond school, but as Smith says, “the most important thing students can do is have a plan, work the plan, accept that failure is part of learning, and keep pursuing their best life.”