Every once and a while I get to get out of the offices and go hang out at a school. September 10 found me not far from Kansas City. Most recently, Helen Hoch, teacher of Burlington High School invited me out to talk to her Personal Finance classes. All three of them. Needless to say, I had a great time. It is also a very important topic. Students need to understand that as they transition to the “Real world” the financial pitfalls are everywhere. They need to fully understand the importance of how money works.

This is Helen’s second year deploying CTeL’s Personal Finance Course. Helen is always excited about teaching and I enjoy Helen’s school district as they are very strong thoughtful proponents of STEM or as I am more app to call it STEAM education (STEM + Arts). Helen loves challenging her students and she is like minded and feels “I believe that understanding personal finance has always been critical to being successful, and even more so in today’s world” and also reinforces “if you don’t learn how to handle your money now you will spend your life always struggling instead of enjoying.”

Given the opportunity to visit with three classes of students, I focused on the common mistakes people make in the area of personal finance. For most of us our homes are our biggest investment. For high school students I like to talk about car ownership. Let’s face it for a high schooler there is nothing more iconic, expensive and scary (for the parents) than the first car. So, I typically get into a lively discussion on buying a car, and explained the disparity of acquiring assets that generally appreciate in value (houses, businesses, investments) and those that depreciate (automobiles, clothes, game systems). I like to drive home the dangers of not understanding how money works and how they can have their finances either work with them or against them. It is all their choice.

What I find terribly scary for our youth is the statistic that 1 out of 5 individuals under the age of 24 go bankrupt in the US every year. In addition, as a direct result of today’s competitive job market, many employers are often running background checks that include credit reports. They want to know that potential employees can handle financial decisions, whether it’s the company’s, a client’s, or the employee’s own. In other words, employers firmly believe people who are smart with their own money will be smart with everyone’s assets.

One of the things I do get asked is about the storyline in our personal finance course. Embezzlement, mystery, intrigue…does this really happen? I share with them it does and the embezzlement that is laid out in storyline of the virtual internship is actually one I saw unfold in a company I worked for. In fact, with someone I had hired. In the course design we chose to have the students embrace the challenge and mystery of chasing down the embezzler while learning and applying financial concepts to help solidify the case against the “perp.” I don’t want to say we trick anyone into learning personal finance by doing so, but to catch the embezzler you have to know your stuff. And it makes it all fun.

Really appreciated the chance to visit Helen and her class. I appreciate the hospitality of the students and putting up with highly enthusiastic presentation style. I especially appreciate Principal Don Hillard, Doug Vanderlinden, Craig Kuhlman and David Gilman for all their support of Helen and the other CTe Learning courses running in their district.

Big Thanks – Steve