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Teaching Personal Finance


December 11, 2002

I have my students create a budget simulation by writing bills for a typical family of 4. The students also choose a fictitious job with a typical wage for this area. All this is done with research by the students about how their own families spend money. I then give them a big credit card balance, and they must try to pay their bills with their paycheck. Since there are penalties for not paying a bill in full, the students must make choices about which bills to pay. The simulation runs for several days, but each class day is another week. We do not try to cover insurance or investments at the same time. A spreadsheet keeps track of how much they have in their bank accounts and how much they owe on bills. It does take a lot of teacher time until you are able to teach a responsible, honest student to enter the amounts. Another resource is your local bank or National Endowment for Financial Education, which both have banking and financial planning materials. Students in my Applied Math II class say that this is the unit they learn the most from each year, so the time that I put into it is well spent.

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