Better money education is needed in US schools

Better money education

The pandemic scrambled the personal finances of many people. But that’s not the only reason Americans are tangled in a web of financial insecurity. Tim Ranzetta, founder of Next Gen Personal Finance, is so convinced that the lack of education about money is a major cause of social disparity that he personally endowed a foundation and created a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing a required money education program to high schools around the country.

The result is a curriculum for teachers, combined with an interactive game arcade for students. It’s designed to both teach and entertain — a sort of turn-key program for the growing number of high schools that recognize the need to include a full-semester personal finance course.

“Only one in five students gets a personal finance education before crossing the graduation stage, yet 85-95% of parents, teachers and students think this is a critical course,” said Ranzetta. “Backed by the grassroots support of 50,000 passionate educators, we believe that we have the strategy to get financial education in every high school in America by 2030.”

Ranzetta’s approach might finally be just the format to reach this goal. And, be warned, there is an “ask” at the end of this column. The ask is not for money. The program is FREE to teachers and schools. But if you’re reading this column and nodding in agreement that personal finance education is a must, then I hope you’ll add your voice to those requesting your school board include this curriculum.

First, though, you really need to spend a few minutes browsing the website of Next Gen Personal Finance at Ranzetta says the goal of this full-semester “course in a box” was to create a comprehensive and engaging digital curriculum for both teachers and students.

Making teaching easier was the first step. So, the program includes a Teacher Toolkit to make day by day lessons easy. There are even quizzes, current event videos and interactive exercises. But you must have a free teacher account to access this portion of the site. There are even certification courses for individual personal finance topics. Many teachers of history or social studies may never have taken a personal finance course themselves but are eager to lean. So teaching the teacher is at the base of this program.

For students, there is a free arcade of digital games to teach personal finance. Spend a minute with a high-schooler online at this website and see how engaging these short games can be. From budgeting to investing, from insurance to credit, Next Gen has done a fantastic job of engaging the next generation in learning about money.

For example, there is a simple yet sophisticated game called Payback designed to show students how to pay for college — before choosing a school. Click to see the variables — ranging from “prestige” to in-state colleges to a commuter alternative. Clearly, that expensive college that might leave you with a lot of student debt. For parents who haven’t been brave enough to explain to their high school freshman that the college of his or her choice might be unaffordable, this is a great place to start the discussion. (Here’s the direct link to that arcade game on Next Gen:

The pandemic only increased the reach of Next Gen Personal Finance. And whether school returns to in-person education this fall or continues at least partly on an interactive platform, this program makes teaching easier.

Sadly, only seven states require a full-semester course in personal finance for high schoolers. At there is an interactive map so you — parents and grandparents and interested citizens — can see where your school district stands.

So here’s the “ask”: If you care about the future of a financially literate citizenry, get involved by sending this column to your school board or by raising your voice at a school board meeting to demand personal finance education. It’s ready and waiting. And it will make life better for the next generation. That’s the Savage Truth.