Four Great Programs for Teaching Financial Literacy to High School Students

Four Great Programs for Teaching Financial Literacy to High School Students
The Editorial Team January 30, 2013

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The task of teaching young people about money management has traditionally fallen to parents, as schools tend to focus on more academic pursuits. However, in light of global economic stresses, educators are recognizing that personal finance skills are as important to young people’s success as are core academic topics. To help in this educational endeavor, an increasing number of financial literacy high school classes are springing up, and some innovative new teaching tools are being developed.

The four programs outlined below are some of the very best of these new teaching tools, making the classroom experience personalized and vibrant.

Budget challenge

This is a simulation which allows students to learn about managing personal finances by trial and error, without exposing them to the risks of real-world money management. The simulation starts students off by giving them a “job”, with a defined salary. They are then directed to begin making choices, some of which involve opening simulated bank accounts and signing up for various utilities.

The element of a game is introduced into the learning process, as students are awarded a rank within the class. High rankings are based on each student’s ability to pay the “bills” they receive, build savings accounts and contribute to 401K accounts. At the end of the simulation, there’s a winner for the class, and the hopes are that both the successes and failures experienced by students will provide memorable lessons for the future.

Stock market game

Endorsed by the New York Stock Exchange and run by a non-profit foundation, this game has been a mainstay in financial literacy classes for over 30 years. This program is carefully designed to meet national and state curriculum standards for math, language arts, business, technology, and other subjects. The game has a very flexible platform that can be adapted for any grade level between fourth and 12th and includes a teacher support center, offering many teaching strategies and evaluation tools.

Teachers don’t need to know anything about investments in order to guide students through this learning experience, since each step of the process is self-explanatory. The game teaches basic life skills such as personal budgeting and money management as well as concepts of investing. Students work on teams, debating strategy within the team and competing against other regional teams. The Stock Market Game has stood the test of time because of its engaging, multilayered content.


Financially smart for school districts, the FoolProof curriculum is offered entirely free of charge. It consists of online lessons which are interactive and progressive, teaching students the basics of financial responsibility and how our free market economic system works. Its video lessons are presented by young instructors who will appeal to high school students, and there are plenty of music and game breaks incorporated into it as well. Furthermore, it also provides teaching guides and daily classroom outlines, as well as software which automatically grades all student work. This free program is offered without any ads or corporate sponsorships, and is endorsed by the Consumer Federation of America and the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Money Smart for Young Adults

A financial literacy education program offered through the FDIC, Money Smart for Young Adults is intended for students ages twelve through 20. It seeks to educate them in personal financial management skills and also in developing a knowledgeable relationship with a bank. The program is provided to teachers on a CD, and it consists of eight modules for teachers to present. Some districts are recruiting outside partnerships to leverage the value of this program, by setting up funds through which students are awarded actual matching cash grants if they open a savings account and successfully complete the Money Smart education program.

As high schools increasingly recognize the importance of financial literacy, there are more and more teaching tools being developed for this purpose. We have reason to expect that in the future, our high school graduates will be well-equipped to navigate a complex financial landscape.

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