Financial Literacy Curriculum Available FREE for High Schools

San Diego, CA. When it comes to saving money, most people, especially young people, will simply stop at nothing. Many adults wonder why. It's not hard to figure out why, when you consider all the messages to spend we all receive in a day from the usual sources like ads on TV, radio, in the printed media, on public transportation and taxi's, plus the subtle encouragement parents give their young people when they hand them a credit or debit card. Those cards have a message and it is simply spend. The most common form of overspending is not those who spend more than they earn or have on hand, it is paying too much for things.

Parents who don't take an active role in teaching their children (and grandchildren) about money are teaching them anyway, but it is by their actions. So, if mom and dad stop at the ATM everyday and use credit cards for everyday purchases, there is no reason to expect their children will do anything different when they have access to credit and debit cards. If saving money is important to parents, it will be important to their children. If spending is the main focus, children will be spenders also.

So as another school year begins, there is once again a focus on financial education, which mostly comes from the nonprofit community like the Jump$tart Coalition, its state chapters, Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, neat web sites like, and of course, the nonprofit Institute of Consumer Financial Education ( There is also some new ammunition for high schools and teachers. The American Center for Credit Education, a division of Rushmore Consumer Credit Resource Center, in Rapid City, SD is now making available a free financial literacy curriculum for high schools.

When young people graduate from high school, society expects and assumes that they possess certain life skills. While a handful of students will already have had some experience with making adult decisions, many will face a dramatically different world from the one they knew in high school. Once eighteen, a young person can enter into legally binding contracts and will likely become responsible for earning a steady paycheck, paying rent, filing tax returns, handling bank accounts, taking out car loans, buying health and auto insurance, and much more. With little training or experience, young people can easily make missteps that can significantly influence their financial health for many years to come.

Suited to the soon-to-be high school graduate, this curriculum is intended to serve as a basic course in personal finance. Each of its fifteen lessons addresses a topic that is essential for young adults to understand and master.

This curriculum is adapted from the national, standardized financial literacy program, Credit When Credit is Due. Credit When Credit is Due is a twelve lesson, 300-page workbook that was written by well-known financial analyst and writer, Paul Strassels. The Institute for Educational Leadership & Evaluation has twice evaluated Credit When Credit is Due and has verified that it is effective in providing individuals with the skill set necessary to make wise financial decisions.

Those who are going on to college or trade school will, most likely, face the prospect of taking out sizeable student loans. Fortunately, there is a growing list of college loan providers that are now offering discounts on their interest rates for those who complete the lender's financial literacy course. In many cases, these courses are based on this high school curriculum.

So, for teachers and parents who are watching their students get ready for college, please encourage them to take this course, and then apply what they have learned when taking the lender's course. A quarter to a half point discount from the standard interest rate can mean tens of thousands of dollars in savings when it comes to their student loans.

The fifteen lessons included in this curriculum touch on the basic subjects that all adults are expected to know and have mastered.

Lesson 1: Learning the Facts of Life
Lesson 2: Affording Your Chosen Life-style
Lesson 3: Working to Earn a Living--Job Applications and Interviews
Lesson 4: Becoming a Successful Employee
Lesson 5: Knowing What to Expect--Your Paycheck
Lesson 6: Understanding Income and Payroll Taxes
Lesson 7: Developing Banking Relationships
Lesson 8: Creating A Spending Plan (Budgeting 101)
Lesson 9: Moving Out (And into Your Own Place)
Lesson 10: Becoming a Smart Consumer
Lesson 11: Buying and Financing Your First Car
Lesson 12: Getting the Right Insurance (Auto, Health, and Rental)
Lesson 13: Using Credit Cards Responsibly
Lesson 14: Taking Out a Loan
Lesson 15: Staying out of Financial Trouble

Each lesson is followed by Topics for Further Discussion & Suggested Activities. The activities have been created in such a way so as to engage students with the material presented in each lesson and should serve as a way to help students retain and synthesize important information.

One of the difficulties involved in creating an effective high school curriculum is that most students are not yet required to make adult decisions relating to personal finance, and thus have yet to understand the consequences of making poor decisions. The challenge as an instructor is to make financial literacy education resonate with your students. This curriculum and accompanying activities are designed to challenge students to think critically about the many decisions that lie ahead--in hopes of preparing them for what to expect and in helping them to avoid financial pitfalls.

Some activities included in this curriculum will require a considerable amount of preparation on the part of the instructor, but the benefits of giving students a hands-on opportunity to deal with important financial topics will help to ensure that they retain the information in a way that testing alone cannot accomplish.

Instructors can feel free to adapt these activities to suit the needs of their classroom and their students and may wish to supplement any given lesson with additional resources to enhance students' understanding of the material. You may find that a given activity could work well to enhance any number of lessons.

If you create a classroom activity--either as a spin-off from those presented here or one entirely your own--we would be interested in having you share the activity with us. We would like to continue expanding the activities that accompany this curriculum and would welcome your expertise.

One last point--this curriculum is being offered free of charge to every high school and every high school teacher in the country--public or private. The American Center for Credit Education (ACCE) would like to help schools and its teachers provide effective financial literacy education to those who will soon desperately need it. ACCE asks you to respect our copyright. ACCE would like to hear from any who would be willing to share their experiences in teaching these materials. We are always interested in improving it. You may reach the ACCE by email at