Taking Charge of your Future with Personal Finance
One of the top questions students ask about what they are learning in the classroom is, ‘Why do I need to know this?’ Career and Technology courses provide students the ability to develop skills and obtain knowledge that they will implement in their everyday lives, continued education and/or careers.
Personal Finance is a great course for high school students to take before joining the real world. In VirtualSC’s Personal Finance course, many different aspects of an individual’s finances are covered. Students create a monthly budget that is updated weekly, learn about paycheck deductions, insurance premiums, deductibles, and taxes (all the things I wish I had learned about before becoming an adult!). The course closes with a reflection about their job, living situation, and any personal financial changes they would make in the future.
Students begin by researching their dream job. Once they have decided on a career, students calculate how much money they will make per month, and then move on by deciding if they are going to rent or buy a home and acknowledging how much that payment will be every month. In the renting-versus-buying research, students are exposed to the pros and cons, and a real-world understanding of each. Sometimes we find that students who started the course wanting to buy their own home realize with some research that, financially, it would be better for them to live in the city renting an apartment. Students also participate in a discussion forum where they compare their cost of living to other students who have chosen to live in a different area than themselves. Students are able to see that sometimes living in a bigger city means having to give up certain things and vice versa.
Students also use their calculated monthly paychecks to pay for things such as transportation, insurance, groceries, electricity, and so on. Students research the difference between wants and needs. Instruction continues, covering voluntary vs. involuntary deductions and how these impact a monthly paycheck. Investments are vital for a student to learn about, and exploring this topic in personal finance now will better prepare them to enter the world making smart financial decisions. Students also cover different types of things to invest in from stocks, to bonds, to precious metals, and gems. To drive this lesson home, students track four different investments of their choosing over a week period and report their findings. Often we are shocked by what investments did well and others that did not flourish.
Students wrap up their personal finance course learning about insurance, taxes, and a summarizing with a final reflection. The differences between premiums and deductibles are discussed, as well as how to complete end of the year tax forms. The reflection section of the course allows students to determine if, after all they have learned throughout the semester, they would consider making changes to their original goals with regard to their career, living area and expenses. Often students realize how expensive things really are and will change the place they are living. Alternatively, students figure out that maybe that ‘dream job’ didn’t pay as well as they originally thought and will decide to establish a plan B just in case.
Overall both parents and students really enjoy the course (and teachers enjoy teaching it!). Parents have often said they wish they had a course similar to this while they were in school and students are grateful for the opportunity to see what their desired job really makes and can begin focusing on how to make their financial dreams a reality.
Personal Finance, however, is only one example of how VirtualSC’s CATE courses provide students with valuable insight and real-world applications of skills and knowledge. For example, Health Science 1 often sparks an interest for students considering joining the medical field. Child Development CP can lead students in the direction of teacher education, and business education courses prepare students with the technical tools needed to excel in the workplace and everyday life.