What subjects should you include when homeschooling your teen through high school? Answering this question can and does fill entire books. Personally, I think at least some of the subjects should be related to your teen’s interests as much as anything else. But there’s one subject that should be mandatory: personal finance.
Now that our economy appears to be in freefall, a quick look at the comments section of online articles about the subject reveals people complaining, lamenting and sometimes bellowing about the lack of financial education offered to teens in our public schools. Some believe that if adults had been taught even the basics of personal finance, we would not be in the pickle we find ourselves today.
Maybe. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Greed on the part of everyone involved has certainly been the catalyst. But I don’t think the schools can do the job. It means much more coming from a parent. Besides, a parent has better resources to do the job.
As a parent, you put the “why” behind the “how.” It’s one thing to say that teens should set some money aside every month and save it for a rainy day. It’s quite another to tell the story of how your dad and his siblings saved almost every nickel they made as teenagers so they could help their single mom buy the family’s first house. That was a real-life situation I shared with my teens; I’m sure you have your own. (Sometimes true stories don’t have a happy ending…..every family these days knows someone with a cautionary financial story to tell.)
You also have great resources available to use with your teens. For example, unlike the schools, you don’t need textbook charts showing how credit card interest is calculated. You likely have the credit card bills that show how little a minimum payment is required for the purchases you’ve made each month. You can show the high rate of interest charged on balances, the equivalent of paying a 22% (or greater) premium on everything you buy…..thus saving you 22% when you pay off your bill each month. Even if you’re not a credit card user, the reason for that decision should certainly be shared with your teens.
A textbook used in the public schools might also include case studies of make-believe families with examples of income and expenses. However, you can place a month’s worth of real paycheck stubs on one side of the table and a month’s worth of bill stubs on the other (utilities, mortgage payment or rent, car payments, etc.) and let your teen do the math. Real life has much more impact than case studies of strangers.
Today’s economy offers many sad stories of those who relied on credit to make up the difference between their income and their desires…. to their detriment. Go over some of these stories in your newspapers and online and discuss them with your teen. Use them as examples of why it’s so important to live within your means.
I’m sure you can think of other ways to teach your teen your view of personal finance. I designed similar projects for my teens* that they worked on, and I included them on their high school transcripts with the title Life Prep (Personal Finance). No one questioned it, and it certainly didn’t prevent my son from being admitted to college.
You might be hesitant about sharing your personal financial information with your teen. If so, consider that what you teach your teen about this subject will greatly affect him for his entire life. Smart financial decisions, made when young, can benefit a person for years. Unfortunately, messing up because of financial ignorance can hurt a person for years.
Sharing information and opinions about personal finance is every parent’s job. It’s too important to leave out, especially in times like we’re living in right now. Homeschooling parents have the time and opportunity to do this. The time to begin is right now.
*found in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers; learn more at http://www.cardamompublishers.com/cardamom-life-prep.htm
Copyright 2009 Barbara Frank/Cardamom Publishers
Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth children ages 15-25, a freelance writer/editor, and the author of “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, “The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling,”and “Homeschooling Your Teenagers.” You’ll find her on the Web at www.cardamompublishers.com and http://barbarafrankonline.com/