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Skills for the Rest of Their Lives

Teacher: Sandy Maxted

School:  Assumption High School (Louisville, KY)

Subjects:   Dual credit personal finance and dual credit introduction to business, which are operated through Western Kentucky University and offer three hours of transferable credit. In addition, honors personal finance, business law, applied economics and advanced accounting.

Grade Level:   11th and 12th

Years Teaching:   39

State Financial Education Requirement:  In Kentucky, financial literacy is incorporated in the practical living/vocational studies program, beginning at the primary level and continuing through high school. However, it is not a state graduation requirement.

Why Personal Finance:  Years ago, Sandy taught a class called consumer economics that included a unit on personal finance. About the same time, she attended a session by the Department of Education on the importance of personal finance. This combined experience sparked her passion to ensure that her students were prepared for their future. She then asked her administration to have not just one unit, but a full semester course on personal finance. Her proposal was accepted and when it began there were two or three classes – now there are six annually. And, Sandy says, the class is really growing because the students understand the importance of personal finance.

Why Teaching:  Sandy shares that she always wanted to be a teacher, but that she also was interested in business. So the combination fits her perfectly. She believes that what she’s teaching is something her students will use every day – particularly the personal finance skills. She said she tries to incorporate real-life skills they can use as they grow. Sandy also shared that she got an email from a former student who was excited when she opened and understood the importance of a Roth IRA. “It makes you feel good when you get those comments,” Sandy said.

Resources:  While Sandy is like many teachers and pulls resources from numerous sources, she focuses on those from: The Jump$tart Coalition, the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, Kentucky Economic Education Council, Financial Capabilities National Challenge, Kentucky Department of Education, and guest speakers from local banks and insurance companies.

Her Story

Sandy motivates her students by using real-life documents – such as insurance contracts, credit card statements, bank statements, etc. – which allow her to create a hands-on approach to learning. She also starts her lesson by having her students create resumes and cover letters to go along with a job they’d like after college. Sandy said it helps them create a realistic budget for their future – including monthly living expenses.

During the lesson, she has her students find the current salary of ‘their’ job as well as the cost of an apartment, insurance rates on auto loans and has her students put aside money for health insurance and a Roth IRA.

Sandy said, “we come up with numbers to live on based on the career they are interested in.” They then write a paper that supports the budget and how they can cut back on spending or make other adjustments to their budget if needed. Sandy said it helps students understand the importance of knowing what comes in and what goes out each month while still putting some aside to “pay yourself first.”

“Every single girl (her school is an all-girls school) leaves with a well put together resume and cover letter that they can use that for the rest of their lives,” said Sandy.

However, that’s just for starters.

The students also look at investing in the stock market and watch the value of stocks fluctuate. For the lesson, the students are ‘given’ $1,000 to invest and follow a stock for 13 weeks. They look at trends for five years and learn more about the company, profile, news and whether their investment decisions were smart. For Sandy, it’s better than the students learn about investing without losing real money at first.

In addition, one thing that Sandy focuses on is getting the “girls as much hands-on experience as they can.” She does this not only by using real-world examples but also by bringing in speakers – such as bank executives who can address manually reconciling bank accounts (something not many people do today). With everything online these days, Sandy says it’s important to instill the value of reconciling accounts with her students.

Finally, each day Sandy asks her students to tell her something that they learned and asks them to go home and talk to their parents about it. It reinforces what they learn in the classroom by seeing (or hearing) it in action at home.