Studies show that children who learn how to handle money will be better able to manage their finances as an adult. Financial literacy is increasingly becoming a priority for various levels of government across Canada. The federal government has a National Financial Literacy Strategy with a wealth of free online resources, and New Brunswick’s financial and consumer services regulator has developed a fun financial literacy game called Fortune, designed for adults and youth alike. Knowing the best ways to teach financial literacy is key to instilling this helpful skill at an early age.
If you’re interested in teaching financial literacy, we’ve got tips and games to help you start educating your students about cash.
Elementary money lessons
It’s never too soon to start teaching the ins and outs of finances. Preschool and kindergarten-aged children can start by learning the value of coins and bills, basic addition and subtraction and the concept of immediate versus delayed gratification.
Older elementary students can focus on concepts like how to earn money, budgeting and how to make change. Set up a pretend store in the classroom and have students practice buying products and making change. Write money amounts in cupcake liners and have students put in the correct coins to add up to that total. Or have them search for plastic eggs hidden in the classroom. Include fake money or write a dollar amount inside each egg and have students add what they find. Educational giveaways, like a piggy bank, money saver stickers or tattoos, can help them learn and save.
In the middle of the money
Junior high and middle school-aged children should start learning more complex monetary ideas, including:
- Smart spending and saving choices.
- How their education and career can affect their earning potential.
- Thoughtful money decisions, including comparison shopping.
- How insurance protects them financially—spending a small amount to shield them from possible larger expenses.
- How credit and debt work, including loans, credit cards and interest.
Students at this age can learn more about finances using real-world examples. Try assigning each student a random compound interest rate and savings amount, then have them calculate what their savings would earn over 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years.
Hitting the high points of finances
High school students will benefit from using a lot of real-world examples. Many of them may be saving—or paying—for things like cars, insurance or their college education. Important skills and concepts to teach at this age include:
- Creating a household budget.
- Saving for long-term goals and emergencies.
- Making informed purchasing decisions through comparison shopping.
- Evaluating risks, rewards and financial pitfalls of credit, loans and debt.
- Considering the financial impact of their education, loan and career path choices.
Help them hone their real-world skills by creating a menu and doing the grocery shopping for their home for one week. This allows them to try budgeting, cost comparison and needs vs. wants in the real world. Or have them choose some major purchases they would like to make in the next year and have them create a savings plan. For many students, that big purchase might be a cell phone. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada offers a free training guide for educators in Quebec that has students analyze a cell phone contract and calculate the maximum cancellation penalty the provider could charge.
Budgeting some time in your classroom for monetary learning is worth its weight in gold.
Knowing how to teach financial literacy can help you set students up for success later in life.