Teaching financial literacy in schools

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 5:33 PM CST
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Filing taxes, managing debt, and retirement planning are all familiar topics with adults, but not so much for teenagers.

In Altoona, students are being prepped to ensure their pocketbook is in good shape once they graduate.

"Students at the Altoona School District to graduate and walk our stage, they actually have to pass a personal finance and literacy course,” said Superintendent for the School District of Altoona, Dan Peggs.

Peggs say the class helps student understand basic financial practices.

"They focus on how to do taxes, how to do just a monthly budget, and other critical elements that comes with being an adult,” he said.

But it also teaches some financial practices that are not so basic.

"We have kids with Roth IRAs at age 16, that's a weird thing for most of us who are already adults to comprehend,” Peggs said.

Businesses from around the community also go into the classroom to make sure students are cashing in on what they're learning.

"It teaches them responsibility and to be financially savvy,” said Chad Plath, Branch Manager for Charter Bank in Eau Claire. “It is great that we have opportunities to go into classrooms around the Chippewa Valley to start educating our students about balancing a checkbook, talking to them about budgeting and how to save for those wants that are potentially down the road."

Plath says students are very receptive to learning about finance.

"They feel good about learning all of this stuff because they know as they move on, maybe they go to college, or eventually graduate and get that job; they need to know how to balance their money that they are making,” he said.

Peggs says the classes also prepare students for college.

"Student loan debt is a significant issue for Americans in general,” Peggs said. “Our 18-year-olds coming out of high school are signing on the dotted line and they may not understand exactly what they're signing up for and the long term implications that come with student loan debt."

According to the Eau Claire Area School District, financial literacy classes are not required to graduate.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction just announced a $150,000 grant to help fund classes like those in Altoona.

But Peggs says schools in rural areas have a harder time accessing these grants because they may not have enough staff to write a grant.

He says he hopes the department will announce non-competitive grants to make the funds more accessible.

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