For Teachers

How to Add Personal Finance Subjects To Your Curriculum

Here’s how to effectively weave in money topics to the rest of your subjects.

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It is no secret that most students today come into the “real world” unprepared financially, without the tools to navigate the world of money comfortably. Personal finance is crucial to incorporate into every level of schooling, yet it can be challenging to fit it into the overall curriculum. So, how do teachers and homeschooling parents ensure their students are ready for money demands after high school? Let’s take a look at some strategies to prepare young minds for the economic realities of adulting.

Teach Personal Finance in Stages

It would be tricky to teach pre-K students about higher-level financial concepts, especially if they don’t have a basic grasp of money. Fortunately, personal finance education follows a logical track, starting with coin and currency awareness, understanding needs and wants, the difference between goods and services, saving vs. spending, and gradually increasing complexity. 

Whether you cover math, ELA, or science, you can continually work on money education examples and strategies. As students progress through elementary and middle school, they learn about interest, investing, and managing credit and risk. These are all topics you can mesh with other subjects, especially if you generalize them for little ones, so they understand the concepts. For example, suppose you cover sharing (as in donating to charities) or borrowing (like using a credit card or getting a loan). In that case, you can teach the general concepts to very young students and gradually make them more realistic and practical as the students get older. Where little ones may share a toy or puzzle in class, older students will understand the idea of sharing money with others who may not have the resources others have.

Use Real-life Examples and Resources

Just as you would incorporate current events, trending ideas, and the latest discoveries into your Social Studies or English curriculum, you can do the same with personal finance. You can find lessons, games, hands-on activities, and much more to expose kids to financial literacy resources. Guide students to the latest apps, websites, personal finance calculators, and tutorials whenever possible. There are many up-to-date podcasts, videos, and news clips you can tie finance subjects into whatever you’re teaching. 

Are you covering the Great Depression in History class? Focus on interest rates and unemployment, linking those ideas to today’s economic environment, seeing how they compare. Going over persuasion in English? Show your students how advertising works, with distinct techniques companies use all the time to convince you to buy their products, and how consumers (like your kids) can avoid being drawn into purchases they might not make otherwise. The more realistic and pertinent the examples are, the better your students will transfer that awareness and knowledge to their adult lives.

Allow Students Time to Practice Financial Skills

Teachers have a lot on their plate and must cover many standards thoroughly in each subject. It can be tough to set aside time to work on things that don’t fit directly into those curricula – like personal finance. However, if more people saw the crucial value of personal finance for every student in their class, they would make it a part of their daily routine. 

There are many ways you can incorporate money identification and counting into other subjects for your young students in early elementary school. In math, use nickels and dimes when you work on skip counting. In art, have them design their own currency, using their imaginations while you explain how bills and coins work in more detail. For middle schoolers, have personal finance become part of your classroom management approach. Kids of all ages love to have rewards, and the opportunities to teach responsible spending and saving with play money and a class store are endless. 

You can have the class work on a fundraiser for a student project or cause they believe in, walking them through the steps to reach their goals. Project-based learning experiences are made even more memorable when finance is involved, and kids can get hands-on practice with tracking expenses, balancing budgets, and maintaining records. 

High school kids are in the prime spot for money education that applies to their present lives. If students have a job in high school, you can go over incomes and budgeting, working with their actual numbers. As you cover various topics in the different subjects in high school, have students research career options in the field, college costs related to specific majors, and how student loans work.

It Takes a Village

No matter what level of students you teach, parental involvement is essential. Personal finance is just that – personal – and parents can work with students on their money matters as well as teachers can. Often, a young student’s first exposure to money is an allowance from Mom and Dad. They know the child’s interests, ambitions, and motivations best, and can help guide their kids to financial success. Teachers can send information home, explain at parent conferences what personal finance topics they will cover, and work in tandem with parents to reach student goals. If you can swing it, have a family night or workshop at school to go over the many strategies parents can use at home to encourage their kids to manage money wisely.

Even older students can benefit from their parents’ help at home. Many college-bound kids are unaware of the importance of FAFSA and the financial aid process, and parents can go through the application with them. 

Even if you teach a relatively unrelated subject, like art or music, you can help guide your students and set them up for financial success by giving practical advice and showing them how money works.

Keep Personal Finance to the Point – the Students

Money education is unique to every individual. Giving kids a chance to find their path is critical, no matter what you teach. Many students have short-term outlooks, looking ahead to the next day, month, or maybe a year. Exposing them to as many resources as possible will benefit them significantly. Some students get the most out of kinesthetic learning, and role-playing a banker-customer situation where they learn about banking services through acting it out can be great. Others are visual learners, and videos and games – and there are many of those online today – may be ideal. 

How you teach personal finance across the curriculum matters, too. If you know your students well, you likely know which ones prefer independent work and which like to operate in cooperative groups. You can tailor your instruction, assigning teams a specific money-related task to complete together. You can find scaffolded lessons and guided research options to help the individual worker learn money concepts.

Show Students How to Plan

No matter what subject you have the student for, the art of planning is something that will benefit all students in school and in life. Personal finance involves planning and careful management; the more kids work on these skills, the better. You can bring in lessons on budgeting time and money, creating strategies to compare products and accounts, and using online tools to know where their money is going. 

Many subjects in school go over companies and industries. Those are the types of moments where you can introduce personal finance. If a student or textbook mentions a specific company, you can pivot on that idea and research that corporation’s stock symbol and performance. You can extend that learning into a broader examination of the stock market and show them how to invest wisely, based on their risk tolerance, budgets, and savings goals. The possibilities are endless: you could go into studying retirement accounts, comparing IRAs and 401(k) accounts, and so much more. All of a sudden, you can enhance your curriculum to connect students’ personal finances to whatever subject you have that period.

Personal Finance Has Become Too Important NOT to Teach

Educators are in a unique spot to help students build the academic knowledge they need and the economic know-how they can use to succeed. Straight A’s are great, and so is graduating college with top honors. However, all those accomplishments don’t mean much if kids can’t balance a budget and learn how to manage their money. Just because you teach another subject during the day doesn’t mean you have to avoid personal finance. 

School is meant to prepare you for life, and overall it does, but with one gaping hole. Your students are on their way to becoming adults with their own families, and one of the best gifts you can give them is practical money education. By working personal finance subjects into your overall curriculum, you can help them achieve all the goals they set their minds to and start to boost the financial literacy of the next generation.

About the Author

Peter Brown

Peter Brown is a National Board Certified teacher with over two decades of experience in the classroom. He loves working with students of all ages in many subjects, but particularly in practical areas like money education, to help kids achieve their goals. When he is not teaching or writing about financial literacy, you can find him surfing, hiking, skiing, or traveling to new places.

Last updated on: May 15, 2024