ShareThis Page
Students ‘hungry’ to learn financial skills |

Students ‘hungry’ to learn financial skills

The Associated Press
| Saturday, January 23, 2010 12:00 a.m

MIAMI — Each day after school, 17-year-old Phyllis Quach goes to a warehouse filled with silk flowers, stuffed animals and other gift items her parents sell through their South Florida wholesale business.

The recession hit the family hard and they can no longer afford the building. Quach helps pack the goods for a move to a cheaper location. On weekends, her mother often goes door to door, hoping to find new retail customers.

“I never want to go through what they go through,” Quach said, tears gathering in her eyes.

So Quach is taking a personal finance course at her Miami high school — getting early lessons on managing credit, balancing a budget and buying a first home. Experts say the recession’s length and severity means it could affect the students’ lifelong financial behavior, as the Great Depression affected their grandparents’ frugal generation.

The number of states requiring public high schools to offer a personal finance course rose from nine to 15 between 2007 and 2009, according to the Council for Economic Education. Thirteen states require a personal finance course for graduation, up from seven in 2007. Many schools elsewhere offer or require such courses. The Treasury Department recently announced a national award program to encourage financial education in schools.

“The students are hungry for this information,” said John Parfrey, director of the National Endowment for Financial Education’s high school program. “They see what is going on in their own home.”

For many years, schools relegated personal finance to a home economics course, if they taught it at all. Students picked up the spending patterns of their parents — good and bad.

“It was not seen as a necessary life skill, and it was sort of seen as the kind of thing that should probably be learned in the home,” said Jim Hedemark, executive director of Rhode Island Jump Start Coalition, which promotes financial literacy among youth and other vulnerable groups.

Meanwhile, personal finance became more complicated, credit card debt increased dramatically and families began opting into risky adjustable-rate mortgages they didn’t understand to buy homes they couldn’t afford, all elements of the recent meltdown of the economy.

“A good place to start so this doesn’t happen again is the high school level. That’s where younger people start to become more financially independent,” said Connecticut state Sen. Scott Frantz, who is pushing for a law to require public high school students to learn about the basics of home mortgage lending, excessive speculation and the dangers of accumulating debt.

In Amy Broekhuizen’s personal finance class at East Kentwood High School in central Michigan, teenagers want to know how to start a 401(k) retirement account — something she was never asked three or four years ago. Broekhuizen teaches 180 students today, double what she taught five years ago.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.