by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – “A penny saved is a penny earned.” We all know that truism but many of us don’t practice it very well.
In today’s instant, electronic and often credit-driven economy, getting back to the basics is a good idea when it comes to our money. In Missouri, there’s a program to teach your children those basics and the resources are available to everyone else in the household as well.
It’s from the non-profit Missouri Council on Economic Education and it reaches out to around 12,000 Missouri high school students every year.
The group’s president, Mike English, recently appeared on “Missouri Viewpoints” and says the rough economy of the past several years put many Americans – especially young adults – in bad financial situations. While money problems are sometime out of your control they are often because of personal finance mistakes and a lack of planning.
“…now, more than ever, it’s important that young people leave school with a basic understanding of how the economy works and how to manage money. We’ve seen in the past several years what can happen when young people don’t have that education.”
Public high school students in the state are now required to pass a personal finance course. MCEE’s resources are designed to have an impact beyond the classroom. While there are some elements of their education designed for the classroom or a seminar setting, other parts teach through fun and competition.
There are personal finance and economic-based quiz bowl games and an “Entrepreneurship Challenge”, which is a competition of creative business plans.
Through a partnership with the Missouri Credit Unions Association, MCEE offers three-hour “Financial Reality Simulations” where students manage a simulated budget, debt and expenses. English says that’s often an eye-opener for young people who are close to leaving home and being responsible for those things on a very real level.
With email or text scams, instant credit at many stores and “payday loans”, it may be easier to get into financial trouble now than ever before. English believes that giving teenagers a solid financial education while they are still at home may be the difference between someone who gets into money trouble as a young adult and someone who builds a strong financial future their entire life.
“It’s a lot more dangerous for young people financially than it was in earlier generations. So, it’s really a necessity, I think, to start preparing young people with that mindset when they are high school students and teenagers.”
The group’s website includes a stock market game, where students can learn about investing and financial risk without taking a chance of losing real world money.
The resources are available online free and are also available to any high school that wants them. The Missouri Council on Economic Education also has regional offices in Kansas City, Springfield, Warrensburg, Columbia and St. Louis.
Often, in English’s view, the problems that come with poor personal money management is not because of a lack of education in the school; it’s because of a lack of training at home. When parents struggle to handle money well, their children learn the same approach.
“What happens sometimes is that the student will learn in school responsible financial management and then they will go home and see the opposite behavior from their parents.”
MCEE offers much of the same information to parents, often through PTA meetings.
“We try to teach them the same stuff we’re teaching the students: budgeting, teaching them about credit, the importance of saving.”
That’s why the resources are available to everyone. English says the impact of teaching students often leads to better decisions by their entire families.
The impact of a better personal finance education isn’t limited to the student and their homes, though. English says it’s good for the entire state down the road.
“There’s a real strong correlation there between a financially literate workforce and a productive workforce.
“When we’re teaching students economics, we’re teaching them to become better educated voters. We’re teaching them to become entrepreneurs in many cases and we’re teaching them to take care of their personal finances. If a student is leaving high school and plans to go to college, what we hope is that they will make some really strategic decisions about where to go, how to pay for it and then what career to pursue.”
The payoff for everyone, English hopes, is making Missouri more attractive to employers because of a workforce that knows how to do business.
On the web
Missouri Council on Economic Education: www.MoEconomics.org
Also, a special commentary sponsored by Associated Industries of Missouri is included in the new “Missouri Viewpoints.” In it, AIM President Ray McCarty calls on Missouri lawmakers to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of HB 253 – the Republican tax reform plan that would lower personal income and business taxes gradually over several years.
Associated Industries of Missouri: www.AIMO.com