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Looking Back on 34 Years of Teaching Personal Finance

Teacher:  Ann Endicott

School:   While Ann lives in Tennessee, she teaches in Mississippi at Byhalia High School (Byhalia, MS), W. Byers High School (Holly Springs, MS) and Potts Camp School (Potts Camp, MS).

Subjects:  Ann teaches career and technical education classes. Specifically, her title is student services coordinator for career and technical education, which partly falls under a federal umbrella that allows her to work with career and tech student across various areas and includes personal finance curricula.

Grade Levels:  9 to 12

Years Teaching:   Ann has taught for 34 years. For the last 13 years she has “borrowed students” – in other words she goes into other teachers’ classrooms and provides personal finance lessons. By borrowing students she provides financial education but isn’t required to grade papers, attend faculty meetings or chaperone events, which may have kept her in the classroom longer than planned, she said (with a laugh).

Why Teaching:  “My mother was a teacher,” said Ann.  She taught Ann’s home economics class, which is where she became interested in vocational economics — putting her on the path to teach personal finance.

Why Personal Finance: Like many parents and teachers, Ann wished she had some financial education in high school, and today “wants the kids to have it,” she said.

State Financial Education Requirement:  Mississippi does not have a state financial education requirement, but each district must make it available.

Resources:  Ann’s favorite resources come from EverFiMoneySKILL, the National Endowment for Financial Education and Next Gen Personal Finance. She also finds resources using the Jumpstart Clearinghouse.

Her Story

Editor’s note: On May 25, 2018, Ann will retire after 34 years of teaching. Before she packs up her classroom and during Financial Literacy Month, we thought it would be nice to reflect on what has changed – and what hasn’t – in personal financial education. 

Over the years the one constant of financial education Ann said, is that you are giving your students lessons that they will use for a lifetime. Unlike some subjects where students struggle to see the value, in personal finance, they understand and can apply the lessons every day.

In fact, Ann shared that a student recently sent her a Facebook message thanking her for all she had learned and is now teaching her own children. For Ann that’s perfect – “if you reach one you’re a success,” she said.

But over the years, Ann has reached many more than one — sharing financial fundamentals such as budgeting, good credit and savings. She also builds her lessons on the belief that, while today so much is done virtually, money is still best kept in a secure financial institution.

Access to those funds may have changed, but a dollar is still a dollar.

Also, while the concept of budgeting hasn’t changed – the line items and the students’ focus on what to budget has changed. The anchor, however, is the importance of knowing where your money is going. And Ann said more money is going to “cell phones that’s for sure.”

As part of the budgeting lesson(s), Ann asks her students to interview their parents about what they budget for expenses – utilities, mortgage, groceries, etc. She (knowingly) laughs when the students turn in budgets that sacrifice on those necessities – even food – to ensure they can afford the most current phone. Ann also noted, while this has been building for some time, it really seems to have peaked lately.

Another thing that hasn’t changed – saving, or the lack thereof.

Getting students to save money and see the importance of saving, says Ann, a struggle. She also said, however, “if it’s something they really want, they’ll find the money.” So, Ann tries to tap into that by helping them focus on laying out long-term goals – the basis of savings.

It’s these core fundamentals that remain unchanged and help provide consistency in teaching personal finance over the years. But, it’s the changes in values and what students find important that keep it engaging and fun.

One of the biggest classroom surprises for Ann occurred 17 years ago. She shared that an extension agent visited her classroom to explain check writing – yet his first question to her ninth graders: “How many of you have a bad credit rating.”

Before the hands went up, Ann thought the question was out of place. However, when half of her students raised their hands, she recalls being “floored.” It was, apparently, fairly common for parents to use their child’s social security number to obtain credit. While they eventually got to the check writing lesson, they first discussed the importance of credit – something still stressed in Ann’s lessons.

Today, Ann said she thinks (and hopes) fewer parents are using their child’s social security number, but she doesn’t ask the question anymore – privacy issues. They do, however, discuss credit cards, interest rates and paying off credit cards every month. She said, “it’s hard for them to understand that if you don’t pay the bill off every month you get charged a fee.” It does become clear once they review bills, statements and other elements of her credit lessons.

At the end of each semester for 34 years, Ann’s students walk away understanding the importance of money. While personal finance education has evolved during her tenure, the bottom line is that money is money and everyone needs to understand how to manage it – no matter their income – to ensure a financially literate future.

And, for Ann, who is well-versed in all of the elements of personal finance she will admit with retirement around the corner, she wished she had saved an invested more. So, even when you understand and know what needs to be done, sometimes lessons still continue – even when you aren’t in the classroom.