Susan Ruffins- Financial Literacy at the Academy of Finance

“Season of Giving” at the Academy of Finance

It’s great to be invited to guest blog for the Florida Literacy Coalition. We, Patricia Garfield, Alyson Amy Edge and I, are high school teachers working with teens in the area of financial literacy and economics at the Academy of Finance in Burbank, California. When January rolls around each year we take time to talk to our students about setting goals and incentives to help build a nest egg. This is both an easy and difficult thing to do.

Teens are acutely aware of the benefits of money and in fact, our students think about money a lot. What they don’t do is think about money in concrete ways. It’s all about “hey when I get to be rich like JayZ” or “when I grow up I’m going to have amazing Jimmy Choo’s”; abstract yearnings for a wealthy life without understanding that building wealth starts right now. So this year we challenged our students to identify the two easiest habits to grow their bank accounts. Here is what they came up with.

• Keep the change. One of the easiest forms of saving is simply collecting household change and putting it in a jar/piggy bank/shoe box, etc….. We love the electronic money jars out there (you can find them online at Amazon or at Target) that tell you exactly how much money you have saved so far. Teens should get in the habit of emptying their pockets, backpacks or purses of loose change each day and then dropping the coins into their bank. Each month they should empty their piggy bank and deposit the change into the checking account at the bank. After a few months, they’ll begin to see a pattern and be able to figure out just how much they can accumulate by December.

 Set some goals. How big do you want your nest egg to be by the end of the year? How much money do you think you can raise or make (or find – in the case of loose change)? We have students who just collect change, others who add some light recycling or babysitting to their schedules and still others who seek part time employment. While making money is good, students should also have a plan for their money. For example, one student set her financial savings goal at $500-$1,000  toward her Prom expenses and another $500 to build her savings account. In her words “For every dollar I make, I want to be able to spend half and save half. This way I can look forward to some fun shopping but also feel like I’m not just blowing it all”. We think that’s a nice balanced approach that can satisfy a teen’s urge to shop while helping them see that it is possible for them to start accumulating some real cash.

This is so simple and our students are already off to a great ‘moneywise’ year. We’ll be checking in with them to make sure they stay on track and encourage them along the way. We hope all our students end 2013 a little better-off than when they started!

Susan Ruffins is a high school teacher, presenter and educator at the Academy of Finance at Burbank High School in Burbank, California. She, along with her colleagues Patricia Garfield and Alyson Amy Edge, have written a parent/mentor and student handbook called “Time Worth Spending” available on Amazon and on their website

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